At the Root of Your Pain: EMG and NCV Testing
The human body is a fascinating instrument that runs on a complex series of pre-determined and impressively hardwired cause-and-effect nerve signals. These signals trigger our muscles accordingly to enable things like walking, running, sitting, standing, driving and all other manner of physical activity required to live our daily lives.
In short, your muscles will move when nerve signals from the brain tell them to. If these nerve responders get compromised in any way, however, one could experience symptoms of pain, tingling or even muscle weakness. For individuals experiencing chronic symptomology such as this, electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction velocity (NCV) are two tests that may be recommended by your physician to help you get to a working diagnosis and treatment plan.
EMG: Put simply, this test measures how well your muscles respond to the signals your brain delivers that promote the desired movement. During an EMG, a thin needle electrode is inserted through a specific muscle and as you relax and contract that muscle, the electrical impulses are recorded and measured. Should the tests pick up a problem, you may be diagnosed with something called a neuromuscular disorder.
NCV: The nerve signals required for your muscles to respond and initiate activity are fast-moving electrical impulses that travel throughout your entire nervous system. This test measures the integrity of the individual nerves – assessing how fast and strong the electrical activity is. Here, patch-like electrodes are applied to the skin that dispense low-level electricity to stimulate the nerve. The velocity at which this electrical signal flows is then measured and assessed. Should this test pick up an issue, a damaged nerve may be at the root of your pain.
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These tests will be given to enable a diagnosis for the following chronic symptoms:
- Tingling or numbness
- Cramping or pain
- Muscle weakness
And they are helpful in diagnosing (or ruling out) the following conditions:
- Neuromuscular disease such as muscular dystrophy
- Nerve problems in the spine resulting from a herniated disc
- Pinched nerves
- Guillain-Barrè syndrome (your immune system attacks the nerves in your legs and arms)
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Peripheral nerve issues in your arms and legs
Together, these tests are able to help your physician diagnose the root cause of your nerve and muscle pain.