Electromyography (EMG) is a test that checks the health of the muscles and the nerves that control the muscles.
EMG is most often used when a person has symptoms of weakness, pain, or abnormal sensation. It can help tell the difference between muscle weakness caused by the injury of a nerve attached to a muscle, and weakness due to nervous system disorders, such as muscle diseases.
How the Test is Performed
A very thin needle electrodeis inserted through the skin into the muscle. The electrode on the needle picks up the electrical activity given off by your muscles. This activity appears on a nearby monitor, and may be heard through a speaker.
After placement of the electrodes, you may be asked to contract the muscle. For example, by bending your arm. The electrical activity seen on the monitor provides information about your muscle's ability to respond when the nerves to your muscles are stimulated.
A nerve conduction velocity test is almost always performed during the same visit as an EMG.
There is normally very little electrical activity in a muscle while at rest. Inserting the needles can cause some electrical activity, but once the muscles quiet down, there should be little electrical activity detected.
When you flex a muscle, activity begins to appear. As you contract your muscle more, the electrical activity increases and a pattern can be seen. This pattern helps your doctor determine if the muscle is responding as it should. An EMG can detect problems with your muscles during rest or activity.