When a doctor uses electronic nerve tests to diagnose neurologic and neuromuscular impairments, these tests are broadly referred to as electrodiagnostic evaluation. The tests are specifically done to evaluate nerve function in the peripheral nervous system and the muscles.
Your doctor may order nerve testing to diagnose the cause of muscle twitching and spasms, weakness, paralysis, or numbness. The test will help to enable a proper diagnosis, determining whether an underlying condition is present.
How Is Nerve Testing Done?
There are two main types of electrodiagnostic evaluations: electromyography (EMG) and a nerve conduction study. Let’s talk about each of these and how they work:
In an EMG test, a tiny instrument is first inserted into a muscle. The instrument is a small pin electrode, and it produces waveforms that represent electrical activity caused by the muscle when it is at rest or in active contraction.
An electromyography isn’t usually painful, but many find the procedure to be a bit uncomfortable. Patients have described the feeling of the needle inserted into the muscle as similar to a slight cramp.
The examiner may ask the patient to make a series of movements, targeting the muscle that’s being tested. This portion of the examination is to determine whether the muscle is contracting properly.
It is an interesting process, as the patient will actually be able to hear their own muscle moving or contracting. As this occurs, the machine will make a popping noise.
The patient can expect to have several muscles tested. If you find that the test is too taxing and uncomfortable, you may indicate this to the examiner. He or she will discontinue the evaluation.
Nerve Conduction Study
A nerve conduction study examines how messages are sent through the nerves that allow the patient to hold objects, reach for things, and walk. A nerve conduction study evaluates the number of nerve fibers that are connecting and the speed at which they connect.
To conduct this study, a small metal disk or sticker is applied on the foot or fingers; the instrument is actually a recording device. When an electrical impulse is sent to stimulate the nerve, the recording device is activated. An image is then displayed via a computer screen for evaluation.
As with an EMG, patients don’t usually experience pain, although some liken the sensation to a static-electricity shock. This sensation lasts very briefly, only a few seconds or less.
How Long Does an Electrodiagnostic Evaluation Take?
A nerve conduction study or an EMG will take between 30 and 60 minutes to perform. The length of time depends on the number of nerves and muscles the doctor orders to be tested.
If the patient feels any discomfort after the nerve test, an over-the-counter pain medication or a cold pack can help manage the discomfort. This can also help with light bruising and swelling if a needle was used.
Orthopedic Doctors in Plano
If you have any issues such as numbness, spasticity, spasms, or other musculoskeletal problems, see a trusted orthopedist for an evaluation and treatment. The doctor may order an electrodiagnostic evaluation to determine why you are experiencing these nerve issues.
Tarpon Orthopedics offers comprehensive patient care in three convenient locations across the Plano area. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call us today at (972) 596-1059 or fill out our online appointment request form. Our team will diagnose your condition and devise a treatment plan that will get you back on track.