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Does an EMG Hurt?

Cali4niaCCali4nia Posts: 45
edited 04/23/2013 - 11:52 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
I am wondering if this hurts. I need to have one done, and probably within the next month or so. I've tried googling to read about them and looked for videos but can't find anything on the neck. Can anyone tell about their experience of having one done for the C-spine area? Did it hurt, were you sore after? for how long?
Mother of three amazing boys who wants her life back, suffering from chronic neck/shoulder pain for 9 months.


  • narcimetamorphonnarcimetamorpho Posts: 16
    edited 04/23/2013 - 5:53 AM
    I've had several EMGs done due to a herniated L5-S1 and they weren't too bad. I was very nervous about getting it done the first time, expected lots of pain, but it was only mildly uncomfortable and over quickly. The only part of the test that hurt was when they tested my toes, but other than that it was fine. I don't know if cervical and lumbar EMGs are comparable, but I'm sure you'll do just fine!
    23 years old, female, back problems began at age 13.

    Herniated disc at L5-S1. Microdiscectomy in '05, fusion in '07. No relief found other than the daily tramadol.

    New: neck pain with radiating tingling/pain down both arms into hands.
  • Hi Cali,

    I had one a couple years ago for cervical and am having another one done this Thursday. It's nothing wonderful, but it's not horrible. If I remember right, you don't feel anything afterward and it's not long, as the above person said. It's actually a very helpful test.

    Good Luck with yours and hope you have a good day!

  • Unless the tester is a real screw up. Needles are very small. They are much less than a flu shot poke and only a little more than a blood sugar test sticking.
    Severe DDD, Severe neural foraminal stenosis at 2 levels, moderate canal stenosis at 2 levels, significantly impaired left shoulder & arm function. Chronic moderate compression fracture at C6.
  • Hi Cali4nia,

    I had EMG and nerve conductions testing for problems with my neck. The testing was done in my hands and arms.
    It did show that I had bilateral chronic neurogenic changes in the deltoid, triceps and biceps muscles. This showed that there was compression in my neck because there was no compression in my wrists or elbows.

    I had a 2 level ACDF done nearly 6 months ago.

    I agree that the tests weren't too bad. The EMG tests left red marks and bruises where the needle had gone in and the nerve conduction tests were electric shocks that made my arms jump. I would say that the tests are worth having to get the helpful information from them.

    Good luck :-)
  • I have had 2 EMG's. For me, the needle sticks weren't bad at all. (Very thin and just under the skin) It was the electric shocks to the muscle that had me freaking out. BUT... I won't get clothes out of the dryer if there's no fabric softener. This is just Me! and because I hate it so bad, I have come to the conclusion that even though the dr.s feel they are necessary, it still doesn't pinpoint the problem. I began having the dreaded symptoms of neck/back problems again and now for over a year. I'm so glad my dr. did an MRI 1st instead of the EMG. Nothing showed for a diagnoses, so now I am awaiting another MRI with contrast hoping to find the problem. Alot of people say my interpretation of EMG is exaggerated and it's "just" me, but to me...it is what it is. I was told I have a sensitive spinal cord as I cannot tolerate epidural injections either. Best to you!
  • Cali4niaCCali4nia Posts: 45
    edited 04/27/2013 - 3:04 PM
    Hi and thanks to everyone for their input! Well I just had my injections done two days ago, so I'm sure it can't be any more uncomfortable than those.

    Mimi719: I sure wish my MRI had shown what my CT had...my MRI showed nothing at all. So because of this the neurosurgeon basically told me to hit the road. So my Dr has now sent a referral to see a neurologist, and he can send me back to the neurosurgeon if he feels it's needed.
    Mother of three amazing boys who wants her life back, suffering from chronic neck/shoulder pain for 9 months.
  • Cali4nia:

    I had one for lower spinal issues. The only thing it hurt was my wallet. Not really, I have been blessed with good insurance. Also, in all seriousness, it was only mildly irritating. Spinal pain has conditioned us to be very tolerant to pain.

    Off subject, I wanted to express my admiration and encouragement to you as the mother of a special needs child.

  • airborne72 said:

    I had one for lower spinal issues. The only thing it hurt was my wallet. Not really, I have been blessed with good insurance. Also, in all seriousness, it was only mildly irritating. Spinal pain has conditioned us to be very tolerant to pain.

    Off subject, I wanted to express my admiration and encouragement to you as the mother of a special needs child.

    Wow, to hear that almost brought tears to my eyes...Thank you so very much for your kind words. It is one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. Jagger, (my littlest one with needs) really is probably one of the strongest individuals I've ever met. And it's his strength I see, when I look into his baby blues, that keeps me going day by day. I have been blessed to have him in my life. xo
    Mother of three amazing boys who wants her life back, suffering from chronic neck/shoulder pain for 9 months.
  • Hi Cali,

    I can relate......my little guy (well, not that little anymore--he's almost 12) has been my rock for quite awhile. He was diagnosed with Autism almost 10 years ago. He's the best!

    Here's hoping you and all are having a smooth, pain-free day! :-)

  • Regarding an EMG....

    Due to some "horror" stories I read about them here and there, I postponed mine twice (LOL)...yes, I chickened out, but told my wife that it will NOT happen a third time. I found a few co-workers who had them done, and all of them said it wasn't that bad. Well, after the experience, I would agree.

    I had mine on both arms (I have daily pain in my upper arms) and an MRI that showed, among other things, multi-level DDD. So, the test....the "shocks" were weird but not "painful." The needles were not "pleasant" but also, for the most part, not nearly as bad as I had in my mind. Really, of all the places needles were inserted, the area between my thumb and forefinger on both hands was the least pleasant, and there was one needle in my right upper arm that caused more displeasure than all the others.

    But at the end of the day, I found my anticipation of how bad it would be FAR outweighed the reality.

    The disappointing part for me is hearing that my test was "normal," yet I'm still living w/daily pain in both upper arms.
  • Just had my emg done on my right arm the shock hurts after the first few times then wait till you have to get the needles in you you barely feel it going in in most spots the part that hurts the most is when they make you push with your arm your arm tightened up and the needle picks like hell they when you go home after a few hrs your arm is bruced up where then been shocking you and hurts more know then what it did before you want up.
  • I had EMG study for cervical issues as well. The zaps don't hurt, they are just annoying. I found myself getting a little anxious expecting the next zap to come. Some areas are a bit tender, like the inside of the elbow, and are uncomfortable, but I wouldn't call them painful. The discomfort is short lived, as soon as test is over, you're fine. If they do the needle insertion for muscle testing, that one is much more distressing as they insert a large needle into different parts of your arm and ask you to flex that muscle while the needle is in it. It is uncomfortable and every part of your brain is telling you not to move, but you have to flex the muscle being tested. All in all, once you're out of the exam room, the distress is over. Hang in there. You'll do fine!
  • i just had an emg last week..i kept hearing how painful it was...the exam was like 30 minutes..he stuck some tiny needles in my legs and lower back and barely felt anything. it was maybe a 3/10 pain wise at the worst parts.

    the parts that hurt the most were the parts without the needles where he put the electrodes on and shocked me..but that was still a 3/10.

    it also hurt most when i had to bend my leg with the needle in it.

    i have doubts of whether the neuro did my test properly though...it didnt seem he was thourugh and the results were normal.
  • TameraTTamera Posts: 1
    edited 10/08/2015 - 1:52 PM
    Hi, I'm new here. I have a question I'm hoping one of you can answer.
    I had an EMG on the 1st. I have a herniated disc (C6) entrapped nerve (C7) and multiple bones Spurs. Been to 20 PT sessions with limited success so my spine dr suggested the EMG. The neurologist said in the beginning of the test the results would be given to my dr later that day or the next morning. It is now the 8th and my dr has not called. I called after 3 days and was told the neurologist had just sent the report. The nurse then told me Dr [edit] would call me the next day. That was 3 days ago. Why would it take this long?
    I understand flat lines and quiet muscles are a good thing so I'm a little nervous because my lines were anything but flat and the muscles were VERY loud. Could this be the reason for the delay? I don't want to call AGAIN, especially if it's just a herniated disc causing my arm problems. Thoughts?!?
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,818
    Because every doctor is different.

    I know the ones that I have dealt with. When there is nothing to really report, no bad news, things are ok, they tend to hold off before making that phone call to let me know.

    When its something that needs attention, I would get the phone call the following day.

    But thats not a rule, but it does seem what we would all hope doctors would do
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,422
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  • Looking at the needles was the worst. The first one i had done was mildly painful, but I think it's because the administer of the test wasn't particularly skilled. The second one went better, but darn, I wish I hadn't looked at those needles. :/
  • peacefulppeaceful Rhode IslandPosts: 1
    I searched for "EMG pain" on Google and this was the first forum that popped up, so I read it in anticipation of the test this morning. I was terrified. I called the office to make sure it was okay for me to take 400 mg. of Ibuprofen before the test and I was assured it was fine. I have neck and back pain and suspected Carpal Tunnel. Turns out I don't have a pinched nerve in my neck but I do have Carpal Tunnel in both hands.

    The main reason for my post is this test was NOTHING! It could be that I just had great treatment. I went to Neurohealth in Warwick, RI. The electrical shocks were minimal and felt more like someone was flicking me with their fingers.  I was most afraid of the needles. The doctor stuck me I'm guessing five or six times in each arm, my hands and wrists, a few times in my neck and a few times around my upper back. He did it so fast that I really don't know how many times. It did not feel like an injection; it didn't feel like a bee sting; I barely felt it at all. THIS WAS NOTHING! I would barely even call the experience uncomfortable. The only terrible part was my fear beforehand.
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