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Having EMG and NCS Tests

You will be having electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction studies (NCS) to measure muscle and nerve function. In most cases, both tests are done. NCS is most often done first. You will be asked to lie on an exam table with a blanket over you. You may have one or both of the following:

Image of hand/arm with electrode attached.

Nerve conduction study (NCS)

During NCS, mild electrical currents are used to test how fast impulses move along your nerves. The healthcare provider will put small metal disks (electrodes) on your skin on the area of your body being tested. This will be done using water-based gel or paste. A doctor or technologist will apply mild electrical currents to your skin. Your muscles will twitch, but the test won’t harm you. Currents are usually applied to the same area several times. Usually the intensity of the electrical stimulation is increased on each body part. Despite some increasing discomfort that varies from person to person, the electrical shock is not dangerous. The test may continue on other parts of your body unless the reason for doing the test is limited to a small part of the body.

Image of male in hospital bed and doctor performing tests.

Electromyography (EMG)

Most of the electrodes will be removed for EMG. The doctor will clean the area being tested with alcohol. A very fine needle will be put into the muscles in this region. When the needle is inserted, you may feel as if your skin is being pinched. Try to relax and do as instructed, since you will be asked to relax and contract the muscle being tested. Following instructions will allow your doctor to interpret the test results.

Let the technologist know

For your safety and for the success of your test, tell the technologist if you:

  • Have any bleeding problems.

  • Take blood thinners (anticoagulants) or other medications, including aspirin.

  • Have any immune system problems.

  • Have had neck or back surgery.

You may also be asked questions about your overall health.

Before the test

Prepare for your test as instructed. Shower or bathe, but don't use powder, oil, or lotion. Your skin should be clean and free of excess oil. Wear loose clothes. But know that you may be asked to change into a hospital gown. The entire test will take about 60 minutes. Be sure to allow extra time to check in.

Image of needle being inserted into muscle

After your test

Before you leave, all electrodes will be removed. You can then get right back to your normal routine. If you feel tired or have some discomfort, take it easy. If you were told to stop taking any medicines for your test, ask when you can start taking them again. Your doctor will let you know when your test results are ready.

 

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