Welcome, Friend!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

Protect anonymity
We strongly suggest that members do not include their email addresses. Once that is published , your email address is available to anyone on the internet , including hackers.

All discussions and comments that contain an external URL will be automatically moved to the spam queue. No external URL pointing to a medical web site is permitted. Forum rules also indicate that you need prior moderator approval. If you are going to post an external URL, contact one of the moderators to get their approval.
There are no medical professionals on this forum side of the site. Therefore, no one is capable or permitted to provide any type of medical advice.
This includes any analysis, interpretation, or advice based on any diagnostic test

The main site has all the formal medical articles and videos for you to research on.

EMG Positive for C5-C6 irritation, MRI negative?

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,578
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:28 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
I can't stand the pain anymore! My shoulders and under arms hurt so bad, and nothing is helping the pain. I've gone from Vicodin now to Norco, and the Norco does nothing (except keep me up all night). Now I'm taking Percocet, which I don't like to take, and that is starting to lose its effectiveness.

Has anybody ever had this? The EMG shows positive for C5-C6 nerve root irritation, but the MRI shows nothing. My ortho surgeon saw a small bulge, but the spine surgeon says its nothing that would cause this pain. Then why the EMG positive? Which is more "right?"

I seriously can't take the pain anymore, I feel like cutting my arms off. I've tried neck epidurals, shoulder shots, traction, physical therepy, etc. I need HELP!

To top it off (now I'm venting), hubby is in hospital probably getting ready to have lumbar fusion. I'll know more later. Two toddlers at home. OK, I'm done feeling sorry for myself.


  • need to get an opinion from a neurosurgeon, someone who specializes in nerves. You clearly have nerve damage (acute or chronic, which did they say?) and the bone doctors (orthopedic docs) don't seem to be stepping up to the plate to help you.

    Nerve irritation/damage is very serious. See how fast you can get an appointment with a neurosurgeon and be sure to take those results.

    I suffer from permanent nerve damage, so I know the pain you are in. Nerve pain is like nothing else, and the pain meds don't help. They just "numb" our mind. I was unable to take the nerve meds, such as Neurontin, Lyrica, Cymbalta (although that is an anti-depressant that has been shown to help nerve pain.) Have you tried any of those?

    Good luck,

  • I feel for you. I had similar results from EMG/MRI prior to my surgery. My PM dr. says that MRIs take pics of you in a lying down position, which is why your disc doesn't show much. That herniation may be bulging more when you are standing, moving your head, etc... think of that bad disc as a mini water balloon bulging out in different directions as you move. Now after my disc has been removed, I still have symptoms, and a bad EMG, so my drs are looking into other reasons for this besides disc herniation. Sympathetic nerves (RSD), Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, for example of a couple. I was thinking that in my situation, my PM dr. didn't send me to see a surgeon soon enough to resolve the disc problem. I feel that if I hadn't wasted 4 1/2 years of conservative treatment, that my nerves wouldn't be as damaged as they are now. Every year I had MRIs showing the disc getting gradually worse. Finally 3 months after an EMG showing nerve damage, I started going to see a surgeon. I hope I've helped you a little bit...I am still living through the pain, now! I hope you will have help taking care of hubby and those little ones for awhile. Don't be afraid to ask family/friends for support and help. Good luck.
  • advertisement
  • Thanks for your comments, and keep them coming. I thought I was just losing my mind! I do take Lyrica, and that helps the nerve pain in my leg (fusion L4/L5 in Oct. 07, hardware removal Nov. 08). My surgeon did suggest that maybe i am not feeling the nerve pain down my arms but only in my shoulders because of the Lyrica. Could be? It seems now like they are writing me off to Fybromyalgia. I know this is a chronic pain condition, and if this is it and my life, I can't have it. I just can't live with this pain anymore. As luck would have it, I found a neurosurgeon (mine is an orthopedic surgeon of the spine) for my husband on Friday, maybe that is a blessing in disguise.

    Thanks for your responses. I really need some friends right now, and I can't talk to anybody else without them thinking I am nuts. I really need this site right now. I can't explain it.

    Should I insist on a CT Myloegram?

    PS - hubby is in ER still, they are doing an MRI in the morning and a consult with the surgeon by noon! I'm so scared of what is going to happen to us.
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 11,347
    It is not all that uncommon to have one test showing nothing while another test shows something positive.
    MRI's are probably the best initial diagnostic test in identifying disc problems. All aspects of the condition of your discs are shown from the many different views.
    A doctor can spot a bulge quickly while reviewing MRI
    When a specific test proves negative, yet you are still in pain, additional diagnostic will be done. Depending on your doctor's view of you clinical examination, they will decide on what test should be done.
    Under normal conditions, IF the EMG test indicated nerve problems, a MRI would point to the disc that is pressing on a nerve root.
    One piece of advice, NEVER insist on a specific treatment or test. A good doctor is qualified to figure out what needs to be done.
    Figuring out why you have the pain and discomfort you talk about is important. Every person has different tolerance to pain. Doctors are also very keen on seeing just how much pain a patient is in. A patient may tell that doctor that their pain level is high (ie 7) while all tests and the doctors observation is that the pain should only be low.
    I have repeatably documented in these forums, that managing pain levels is something that requires more than just pain medication. Its the 'blend' of medications, exercise and your determination and positive outlook which will make the difference.
    Ron DiLauro Veritas-Health Forums Manager
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • I think you should see another doctor. The nerve test is positive and my personal opinion is that MRI's don't always show the full extent of the problem, maybe because like a previous poster said, there is no weight on the spine when getting the MRI. The nerve conduction study is most likely reliable when you couple it with the pain you are feeling. Good luck!
  • advertisement
  • I suggest that you see another doctor as well. I was told that the emg studies can send false positive and false negative as well. My spine surgeon say doing MRI's is not the best indicator either. He said cause patients in a laying down position when the MRI is done so it not show the true compression as when someone standing up placing pressure on the spine. That is why they need to take all the medical evidence together along with the physical exam. Have you reviewed the records from the surgeon to see what else he had found. What physical test did he perform and were you positive on any of those test? There are many other test that can be performed as well to find the source of the pain. Are you keeping a journal of your pain everyday? I think sometimes that helps the doctors as well to see what types of activity are generating pain? I know it is hard to keep a positive attitude but keep up your search for answers and someone to help you. The most important thing I have found is to never say something won't help when a Doctor is trying to help you. Try everything they are suggesting. Sometimes it is a combination of those things that help. Good luck and keep us posted.
  • So, I saw the ortho doctor today that I have been seeing when I though this was my shoulder. I took the MRI in from the neck, the EMG, and the disc of my shoulder MRI. Before even looking at the EMG, he indicated a slight bulge at C5-C6. With my body (very sensitive and temperamental), that is all that it would take. Then I showed him the EMG, which corrleated. The shoulder MRI did show some irritation in the rotator cuff, but he suggested I go back to my spine surgeon for follow-up. It is his diagnosis that the shoulder pain is coming from my neck. I've tried PT three times on both my shoulder and neck, as well as traction, and three epidural injections in my neck. NOTHING has helped. I feel better for about a week, and that is it. I have an appointment with my spine surgeon on March 19th. I wont suggest any tests, I will just see what he says. He is really good, I trust him. Thanks again for the responses. I really need the support today. I went straigh from my doctor appointment to the hospital to see my husband. We still don't know anything. But, he didn't give me any sympathy, so we got in a fight, and I left! Oh well, gotta go pick the kids up from school now.
  • I had the opposite happen where the EMG showed nothing and the MRI showed a lot. I agree that you should see a good neurosurgeon. My 5-6 nerve was pancaked between bone spurs and this past year i had to see my Chiropractor and have deep tissue massage 2x's a week just to get buy on my right trap and shoulder blade. I'm on my 16th day of recovery right now.
  • I had ACDF in Oct. and never have had complete relief. Seems my symptoms just changed sides. I have had CTs, MRIs, EMG studies and just yesterday I had a Myelogram. The reason for the myelogram was to be 100% sure that doctor number 2 is doing a fusion at the right level. Fusing the wrong level won't do me any good so I was happy to have it done. But I'm with Ron on this one. Don't insist. First of all it's no fun and secondly if the doctor thought he might find anything he would have already ordered it. But here's what I did. I had an one surgeon who did my ACDF that wouldn't believe that I had nerve pain since his hardware was perfectly placed so I went to another doc about my shoulder who ended up sending me to an Orthopaedic Surgeon who recommended a second ACDF. Not wanting to go through that again I went to a 3rd doctor. This time a Neurosurgeon. He said that he didn't see enough movement at C4-C5 to warrant a fusion. So HE ordered the Myelograf. I want the right treatment and he was sort of my tie breaker. Maybe that's what you need too a tie breaker. Keep looking until you find relief. I wish you all the best.
  • suzieque4ussuzieque4u Posts: 1
    edited 02/13/2015 - 8:37 PM
    I have 2 emgs showing nerve damage around C7-T1. MRI as per 2 Neurosurgeons shows nothing to cause this. My right hand is numb - a block of ice. The nerve pain was horrible - couldn't tolerate Lyrica or Neurontin. My feet swelled so badly I couldn't walk from room to room. Now on Nortriptyline. I no longer feel like my hand is in a toaster, but the numbness is painful too. Did anyone have this and what conclusion/diagnosis was found? I had C5-6 surgery in 1998 w/o fusion. Going for a myelogram in 10 days. Any feedback would be appreciated.


    Welcome to Spine-Health

    Use that above hyperlink to help you get started with Spine-Health and navigate through the system.

    If there are any questions, you can always post them here, send Liz or myself a private message or contact Ron rdilauro@veritashealth.com

    This is a very old thread, for best support and information I suggest you make a new thread in introductions, you can do this by clicking on 'create forum post' on the left column.
This discussion has been closed.
Sign In or Register to comment.