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What Is an EMG, and Why Would I Need One?

What Is an EMG, and Why Would I Need One?

One of the most exciting diagnostic tests that exists for patients who suffer from a variety of nerve- and muscle-related conditions is called electromyography (EMG). Because of its availability, neurologists can pinpoint many conditions that lead to life-altering discomfort and mobility challenges.

The highly skilled and caring team at Houston Neurological Institute uses EMG as a vital tool to help them create the most individualized treatment plan for their patients. When treatment is a success, patients can enjoy life again, with more freedom of movement and less pain. 

What is electromyography?

Electromyography is a type of electrodiagnostic test that gauges how well your muscles and nerves are functioning. An EMG helps to uncover conditions that affect your peripheral nervous system (PNS).

Your PNS is located outside your spinal cord and brain, which make up your central nervous system.The PNS sends signals to your brain from different parts of your body, allowing you to process smells, sights, sounds, and tastes. It also delivers instructions from your brain to various parts of your body that you control, so you can move. 

In addition, your PNS controls things in your body that you don’t consciously regulate, like your heartbeat and blood pressure. 

An EMG is the first step in gaining relief from conditions that cause considerable discomfort, from pain and tingling to burning and weakness in your arms and legs, back, feet, and more.

Who can an EMG help?

An EMG can help anyone who’s suffering from a condition that affects the peripheral nerves and the muscles that you consciously control. These conditions include:


An EMG is a critical component in the battery of tests that neurologists use to arrive at a conclusive diagnosis, which also includes blood tests, muscle biopsies, and imaging tests.

What should I expect if I need an EMG?

If your Houston Neurological Institute provider advises you to get an EMG, they explain clearly and compassionately why they’re recommending it, and how it will support their diagnostic efforts — whether to confirm a diagnosis or eliminate the possibility of having a particular condition. 

Next, they fully explain what the procedure will involve. When you come for the test, it’s a good idea to bathe beforehand, but skip using lotion, and be sure to wear comfortable clothing. 

You also need to let your provider know if you take a blood thinner, since it can increase your risk of bleeding during the EMG. If your care team is prepared, they can address this if it occurs. 

Your EMG is administered in two parts, and while it’s happening, you can either sit or lie down comfortably. First, your provider places electrodes on you to measure nerve function by sending  mild electric signals to your nerves. This phase of the test is called the nerve conduction study (NCS), and it reveals how well your nerve carries electrical signals.

Part two of the test is the needle electrode examination, or NEE. This is when your provider gently inserts a fine needle into your muscle to record its activity. You may feel a bit of a pinch when this happens, but it’s brief. 

Your provider might need to perform each part of the EMG several times to evaluate nerve and muscle function in different areas of your body.

After you leave our office, your muscles may be mildly sore in the spots where the test was administered, but fortunately, it’s not long-lasting. 

It takes several days for your provider to receive your EMG results, but as soon as they do, they call to discuss them with you. Your EMG is pivotal in arriving at the root cause of your pain and other symptoms, and it allows your provider to craft a treatment plan that’s truly effective. 

Call our Pasadena or Pearland office to schedule a consultation with one of our knowledgeable and caring providers, or request one online


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