Electrodiagnostic Testing – Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
At Rebound, we work with patients to find the treatment plan that best suits their condition and lifestyle. Often, surgery is not a necessary means of treatment. Physical medicine and rehabilitation offers non-surgical treatment for anything from muscle sprains and nerve conditions to spinal cord injuries. One method used by our physical medicine and rehabilitation team is electrodiagnostic testing.
What is Electrodiagnostic Testing?
At Rebound, our physical medicine and rehabilitation physicians (called physiatrists) use two of the most common forms of electrodiagnostic testing: electromyography and nerve conduction studies. These tests help physiatrists analyze, diagnose and treat injuries and diseases that affect nerves and muscles.
“If you think of your body like a network of electricity, it is easier to understand how electrodiagnostic testing works,” says Dr. Fred Bagares, Rebound physiatrist. “Electrical signals are sent from our nerves and muscles to our brain, and vice versa.”
“When we are injured or suffering from a disease or illness, these signals may be interfered with or slow down. We use electrodiagnostic testing to measure the electrical activity and better understand what is happening in the body.”
Nerve Conduction Studies
A nerve conduction study, or NCS, is completed to confirm whether your nerves are functioning in a normal, healthy fashion. This procedure is sometimes administered with electromyography (EMG), another form of electrodiagnostic testing, in order to rule out or detect specific muscle conditions or disorders. Unlike EMG, NCS does not involve needle insertion. Instead, one of our physiatrists adheres electrodes to the skin with tape. After the wires are placed along nerve pathways, the physiatrist will use an electric impulse to stimulate the nerve and see how it responds.
“Impaired nerves tend to conduct the impulse slower than healthy nerves,” says Dr. Bagares. “The electrical signals can also help us identify where an injury has occurred, so we can work toward a diagnosis and develop a treatment plan.”
Electromyography is a type of electrodiagnostic testing that measures electrical activity of muscles and nerves. Rebound physiatrists may administer an electromyography, or EMG, to analyze the functioning of nerves in your arms and legs. EMG may not be necessary, and the physiatrist may opt to conduct NCS.
During the testing, one of our physiatrists places small needles in the affected muscle. Once these delicate needles are inserted in your muscle, they record signals each time there is movement in your muscle.
When is Electrodiagnostic Testing Used?
Our physiatrists focus on prevention, diagnosis and treatment of injuries and conditions that affect how you move. When needed, they use electrodiagnostic studies such as EMG and NCS to evaluate for injury or disease of muscle, nerve roots and peripheral nerves. Electrodiagnostic testing is used for conditions such as:
- Neck and back pain
- Muscle weakness, pain or cramping
- Conditions that involve nerve pressure (carpal tunnel syndrome, ulnar nerve entrapment, etc.)
- Nerve damage
Does Electrodiagnostic Testing Hurt?
With an EMG, you may feel very minor discomfort when the needles are inserted into the muscle. With NCS, the discomfort is also very mild. As the electric shock is applied, you will most likely feel a very brief tingling sensation.
“Our physicians will communicate with you throughout the procedure, letting you know what to expect each step of the way,” says Dr. Bagares. “Our goal is to make sure your experience is positive, and to best assess your condition.”