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EMG results, please help

csccs Posts: 11
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:49 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
I went to a new doctor and he sent me for an EMG. He was CERTAIN that there would be problems based on my MRI. The EMG came back normal and the doctor said to me that since the EMG was normal, that my pain is stress related! He actually suggested that I'm having problems at home! Idiot!

I have spinal stenosis, a central herniated disc with mild spinal cord compression, and bilateral foraminal stenosis. I'm having different degress of pain daily. Some days I get enough relief from Tylenol and Advil mixed. Other days I want to cut my head off - but there's always some type of pain.

Does a normal EMG really mean that my neck isn't causing the pain? I've heard of so many jerk doctors writing things off as stress when that's not really the case. I'm really considering firing him.

Oh, and I'm not stressed - well I wasn't until the pain started.

Thanks for any answers provided.


  • It could be stress or muscle spasms. When you have problems like you describe sometimes the muscles go into a guard mode to protect your spine.

    Has he suggested any muscle relaxants or PT? I've found that the therapist is able to find the spasms the best since they are hands on. If you do have spasms they can also try trigger point injections.

    I've found the EMGs are iffy. It depends on the skill of the person doing the test.

    You didn't say which levels in your spine are affected. Also what are you feeling specifically. If you just have general pain then it may be stress or spasms that are causing your pain. Nerve pain travels out along specific pathways.
  • It's at C5/6 level.

    I actually do agree that I might be having muscle spasms because the colder and damper it gets, the more pain I have. The daily pain I get is like a headache in the neck - sometimes unbearable, sometimes tolerable.

    And this happens to me too. I don't know what it is but it's like I can accidentally get the nerve trapped when I move a certain way. Then I get burning in between my shoulders and arm pain. But I can almost always untrap the nerve by moving my head around in different ways till I find the spot that untraps it. I don't know if you understand what I'm saying but that's the best way to describe it.

    During the EMG, the doctor asked me if the problem was at C6/7. I told him C5/6 and asked him why. He said he could hear some noise there but nothing significant.

    I was prescribed PT but haven't started it yet. I'm not taking muscle relaxers or pain medications.

    I was pretty insulted that out of the blue the doctor said I must be having stress at home and that was causing my pain. That's not correct and I've heard doctors do that often to women patients.

    Oh, and I had 3 ESIs already. I'm not sure if that's the same as trigger point injections.
  • Obviously, we can't diagnose you but I do know that stenosis can be painful. But it's really a doctor's call. What kind of doctor is this, a spine specialist, a surgeon or a PCP?

    It might be a good idea to get another opinion or two, trying different docs such as a neuro and an ortho. I don't know, but I also would be upset if my doctor suggested stress as the trigger when I'm not having stress at home.

    ESI's aren't the same as trigger point injections, but you can look them both up in the search box at the top of the page to understand what each one is.

    I also know absolutely nothing about emgs, so I can't help you there.

    I hope you find the answers you need, sometimes that's the most difficult part of our spiney journey. Please keep us posted.

    Take care,
  • I understand what you mean about docs treating women this way. I love my neurologist but he does make me uncomfortable sometimes. He is so friendly and so intense that I sometimes think I could ask him out for a drink and he would accept. Nothing inappropriate has ever happened but sometimes I wonder.... I also sometimes think he is discounting what I feel.

    My latest issue is that I am having episodes where my index and middle finger cramp and pull in. He told me to eat more fruit.....ummmm.

    I would suggest getting another opinion just to make sure. But it sounds like it is muscle and the PT and relaxants might work.

    ESI is different from trigger point. The trigger point goes right into the knot in the muscle to try to relax it.

    HOpe this helps. I know it is frustrating but it takes time to figure out what works.
  • EMG's are as good as the individual administering them. Many are good with doing EMG's on limbs and lower backs, but very few are actually experienced with performing a solid EMG of the C-spine.

    Stress is always a valid concern and unfortunately seems to be a fallback for when nothing glaring can be found during certain examinations. I used to think my doc was full of beans when she suggested stress was adding to my neck and shoulder problems. I quit my job at the encouragement of my docs and when my stress level dropped, although it wasn't the root cause of my problems, it allowed the other pain management tools to become more effective in fighting my pain. So basically the stress wasn't the cause of my pain, but it certainly was exacerbating it.

  • Thank you all again for your input. I'll be starting PT soon and hope that helps. :)
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