The Importance of EMG and Nerve Tests

Importance of EMG and Nerve Tests

During the course of a patient’s treatment for chronic pain, their physician may suggest the need for additional testing.

The reasoning for needing more testing is to get a better handle on a patient’s specific pain management needs. Among the testing that a physician may recommend is a study of how a patient’s nerves and muscles are working.

Dr. Prasad, a pain specialist in Dallas-Fort Worth, performs this test on his patients during the course of treating their chronic pain. Below he answers a few basic questions about what an EMG and NCS test means.


Question: What is an EMG/NCS test?

Dr. Prasad: “EMG stands for Electromyogram and NCS stands for Nerve Conduction Study. These are diagnostic tests to check on how a patient’s muscles and nerves are functioning. The results from this test will help a pain specialist to diagnose the severity of a patient’s condition and accurately map put appropriate treatment options.”

Question: Why am I being referred by my doctor to get an EMG/NCS test done?

Dr. Prasad“You may be referred for this test if you experience numbness, tingling or a burning sensation; muscle weakness such as foot drop, wrist drop, difficulty opening jars; back pain shooting down your leg, or neck pain shooting down the arm.

Q: What will happen during the test?

Dr. Prasad:  “During nerve testing, small electrode patches are applied to the skin over certain muscles and/or nerves. Then the overlying skin is gently electrically stimulated to see the nerve response. During EMG testing a small, thin needle is used very briefly to test how well the nerve and muscle are working together. There is no electric stimulation involved during EMG testing.”

Q: Is there anything that I should do before having the test?

Dr. Prasad: “Avoid wearing skin lotions, oils or creams on the day of the test. Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing that allows access to muscles and nerves to be tested. Generally speaking, patients can take their usual medications for blood pressure, diabetes, thyroid, and others as prescribed by their physician. However, if you are taking a blood thinner, please notify the doctor in advance.”

Q: Are there any restrictions before or after completing the EMG/NCS test?

Dr. Prasad: “There are no restrictions on activity before or after the test, and there are no lasting after-effects.”

Q: When can I expect the results of this test?

Dr. Prasad: “After completing the EMG/NCS test, the doctor has to look at all the findings before making the interpretation. The test results will be sent to your doctor that referred you for the test. They will discuss the results during your follow up visit.”