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Questions about EMG

Motor1MMotor1 Pittsburgh, PaPosts: 552
My doctor scheduled me to have an EMG done on March 16th. My first question is the obvious one. What does it feel like & is it painful? I've had 2 cervical fusions & still have that burning, stinging pain in the back of my neck & worse pain into my left shoulder & arm. My other question is will the 1800mg of gabapentin I'm taking affect the outcome of the test? Since the gabapentin is helping to lessen the nerve pain, will that mean that the nerves will test ok? I am a little anxious about having this test. I've had so many injections into the back of my neck & they were very painful. I'm not looking forward to more needles in my neck. Thanks for any help you can give me.


  • It's not the most comfortable test but it definitely was tolerable for me. The hardest part was getting my muscles to relax. Gabapentin won't cause any problems with the test because it just changes the way your brain reads the pain signal instead of actually changing the nerve itself. Hope all goes well!
  • Motor1MMotor1 Pittsburgh, PaPosts: 552
    Thank you for your response. I imagine I'll have a hard time relaxing my muscles too!
  • I have had two. The first was uncomfortable (not truly painful), the second one I barely felt. The needles are very small and it is nothing like cervical injections. Good luck.
  • Motor1MMotor1 Pittsburgh, PaPosts: 552
    That helps ease my worries.
  • I had the test about two months ago and it was not as bad as I was expecting. It is just a weird feeling. I had two parts done. The first one was just sensors placed all over my arms and then activated with the currant....That part is a breeze. The next part was when the Doctor placed the needles into the muscles and then activate them with currant. That part can get a little uncomfortable when he starts moving the needle around in there. After that I had 6 cervical injections done at the same time and that almost killed me. That pain was a 10/10 while the EMG was about a 3.

    Good luck. Just relax and think of this test as helping you along your journey :)
  • I had this test a few months back.. i was worried at first, ive read some stories about it hurting and such.. in the end i was surprised by how easy it was and how painless it was. I think it can be difficult for squeamish people but those types are rare.

    I thought i was going to be zapped to death but its nothing like that all.. they are not going to fry your nerve endings or anything like that, in fact i laugh at myself for even thinking that when i went for mine.

    Usually your doctor or the person doing the test will have you lie down comfortable.. if you think having your blood taken isn't so bad.. then you will have no issues with this.. its nothing to be worried about. Feel free to ask the person if you will be OK doing the test with medication just to put your mind at ease.

    Maybe make sure you have someone with you, this will make you more comfortable when you get out.. You will be fine. Wishing you luck.
  • I agree that the test was bearable until they tested my damaged nerve. That part of the needle test was a bit rough. Also, it's normal to be a bit sore afterword. The shock wasn't bad and most the needles were just little pricks, nothing that was very painful. I've had two of them and the only part that bothered me was when checking that one specific nerve. That nerve was more painful for a few weeks after the second test but it eventually calmed down. The Dr should communicate with you and go at a pace you're comfortable with. Also, as stated above, the Gabapentin won't interfere with the results. I was on nerve medications when I was diagnosed with nerve damage.

    Good luck!
    Progressive DDD
    Chronic S1 Radiculopathy
    Discectomy L5-S1 2002
    Discectomy, Laminotomy/Foraminotomy L3-S1 January 2014
    Bilateral SI Joint Fusion and 2 level spinal Fusion October 2014
  • Motor1MMotor1 Pittsburgh, PaPosts: 552
    While I'm not looking forward to this test, im hoping it will give my doctors (and myself) some answers as to what is still going on in my neck & shoulder.
  • Hi Cathy,

    I am curious how your EMG went. Was your Dr. able to tell where your pain is coming from? How painful was the procedure for you?

    I have one scheduled to be done the first week of Nov. I tore the rotator cuff in my left shoulder in a fall on the ice last winter. I also tore the right, broke my right shoulder and reinjured my neck and back.

    I was getting ready to have the rotator cuff surgery when the Dr. said he thinks it's coming from my neck and will not touch it until I have neck surgery, a 3 level fusion that I need due to degenerative disk disease.

    So I went to see the surgeon for my neck. By the way I was already considering to have it done. I was telling my Dr. that I thought much of my shoulder pain is from the torn rotator cuff. That's when he decided an EMG is needed to see where the pain is actually coming from.

    I had an EMG on my legs many years ago before my back fusion and it was so painful I was in tears and the pain became worse from it. I was told that was because there was significant nerve damage. It was not the needle pick that was painful but the electrical charge hitting the nerves. ( Hope I explained that correctly)

    I thought I would see how yours went because of the experience I had the last time I am a bit nervous. Hope yours went well and you were able to get relief from pain.

    Tiered of pain in Ohio
  • Motor1MMotor1 Pittsburgh, PaPosts: 552
    edited 10/21/2015 - 3:13 AM
    That EMG wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be? It was a little uncomfortable but manageable. I did feel more pain after the test was done.
    I was told that the test came back normal? But fast forward to May, and I'm still complaining of neck, shoulder & elbow pain. I found a new orthopedic doctor & he got the report from that EMG & told me it said I have ulnar nerve entrapment in my elbow?
    I also found out that I had a rotator cuff tear. I had surgery for that in June. But I'm still having nerve pain in my neck & my elbow. I am scheduled for another EMG the first week of November. He wants to see if the damage is getting worse in my elbow. He also said I'm probably facing another surgery to fix it.
    You sound like you have a lot of issues going on?
    Have you scheduled the neck surgery yet?

  • ok, well i have been battling pain for over 20+years now. i have had just about every procedure or test there is...the EMG i going to be more painful if you have fibromyalgia. please prepare yourself for this. depending where your trigger points are located, the amount of pain will be much more than in normal healthy tissue. when the needle goes in there is a small prick like testing your blood for sugar reading. if the tissue is normal, you should get a good reading without alot of pain. HOWEVER...if it is a "spot", hold on to the nurse because you will have sharp burning type pain. the needle that they use is very thin but it doesn't matter if we hurt already...good luck and remember that the test can give them important information that could lead to finding you some relief...
    Michaela Renee' Wagie
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,832
    edited 10/23/2015 - 2:19 AM
    There are dozens and dozens of posts regarding people's experiences with EMG tests. When you start to read them, you will get the overall consensus that the test is simple and not painful.

    Those folks that are deathly afraid of needles may not like the test. But the needles are small and initially it may feel like a mosquito bite.
    Even when electrical impulses start to locate some nerve problems, there is little more than a sting., the impulse may give you a little jolt but they should never be painful

    Please read EMG
    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: 5,427
    Welcome to Spine-Health
    Please click on link for helpful information!
    Spine-Health Moderator
    Please read my medical history at: Medical History

  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,427
    ....fibromyalgia and the EMG was unremarkable to me....no pain whatsoever.
    Spine-Health Moderator
    Please read my medical history at: Medical History

  • Recently I had an EMG test. Beforehand my neurosurgeon did tell me that he heard they can be "very painful". I was quite relieved to find that the test was not bad at all---certainly not compared to the daily pain that I have. And, it was much easier to endure than the spine shots I have tried. Unfortunately, the EMG did not show anything to help diagnose the source of this back-hip-leg pain. So, onward I search...
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