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Rehabilitation

Scared of EMG test

04/28/2008

Question:

My doctor ordered an EMG test and an NCS test, because my leg muscles burn and are heavy and stiff. It is hard to move sometimes. And my hands are clumsy and tremble faintly sometimes. The doctor said they are going to stick needles in my hands and arms and apply an electric shock. How long and wide are the needles? How long does the shock last? How many shocks will I get? How strong is the shock? The doctor said they are going to tie my arms to the table. Why? Will I be able to make them stop the test once it starts, if I can not stand the pain? I tried to stick a safety pin in my arm and it hurt so much that I stopped. I am terrified of them sticking lots of pins in my arms. How long are the pins? How long does the test last? Can I refuse to do this? Can`t they diagnose me another way?

Answer:

The needles are very thin and do not feel anything like sticking yourself with a safety pin. The needles are so thin that there is no bleeding when they pull them out. Some people do not feel them at all. The electric shock is just enough to make the muscle twitch, so only milliseconds long. Having your arm tied down is just to observe the outcome of the muscle twitch from the test and not get it confused with your voluntary arm movements. Some people so not have any pain with this and some do. If you want them to stop during the test, they will stop. It is not designed to be torture but to give very specific information about the type of nerve damage that you have.

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Response by:

Tammy S Wadsworth, PT MS OCS Tammy S Wadsworth, PT MS OCS
Sports Medicine Team Member
Clinical Instructor at The School of Allied Medical Professions
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University