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EMG and NCS Question

jh236jjh236 Posts: 27
Hello All,

First let me say that after being on this forum for only a day, my thoughts are with all of you. I know there are a lot of you in much worse shape than me and I feel for you.

Briefly, I've been diagnosed with left leg radiculopathy resulting from multilevel stenosis at L3-L4, L4-L5 and L5-S1. Had an ESI at L4-L5 a month ago which helped for about 2 weeks. My severe pain and numbness is almost exclusively when standing and walking. I'm limited to about 5 minutes walking time before it spikes. Since then my PM doc has referred me to a Neurosurgeon for further consultation.

The neuro ordered an EMG/NCS before we do anything else and is suggesting a second (and final) ESI. If this one doesn't work we're probably talking about a laminectomy.

Anyway, looking for any feedback from the forum on their experiences with the and EMG and/or NCS. The tests were done lying on my back which is one position where the pain and numbness are minimal, around a 1-2. The doctor conducting the test said the results were within normal ranges.

I've read that the EMG has moderate false negative results with radiculopathy. Has anyone had similar results? Also, I meant to ask the doctor today, but does anyone know why this test is not done in a position where you are in high pain? I would think the results would be more indicative in this position.

Sorry for the long posting. Any comments are greatly appreciated.



  • Thats a really good question. I had an EMG last summer with negative results. But I was having neuro issues which were corrected with surgery. From what I have read EMG is not a very accurate test and I'm really not sure why it is even done.

    When you go for the next one ask the doctor. Since your pain is positional it would make sense to do the test in that position.

    There are some interesting threads on here concerning stand-up MRI. You might want to check that out.
  • with my emg s on my back my neuro had me sit be cause that is the position that brought me most discomfort. the test results were way out of norm and the road to surgery began. i guess all doc are different. at that time my wife was in the room, she though it was all in my head, i liked the drugs, i was lazy, you all know the drill. the doc was actually able to show her on the screen how much pain i was having. boy did that change her tune. best and most uncomfortable test i ever had.
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  • years of begging for help with the nerve pain but being told to give the nerves "time to heal", the EMG and NCS finally gave the doctor my diagnosis. Acute and chronic S1 nerve damage on both legs.

    At this point, he stopped putting me off, looked at me with tremendous compassion, now realizing the level of burning/searing pain I had been in (DUH!) and offered me the SCS (spinal cord stimulator).

    Also, for me the EMG testing was horribly painful. Most people say it is not, but I wonder if it was for me since my nerves are so damaged?

    Take care,

  • HI Cheri,

    I'm glad for you that the EMG/NCS helped diagnose your issues. In my case it didn't as I said but I need to talk to my neuro next week to understand more about the test results. Like I said they did the test in a virtually symptom free position which I don't understand. I am assuming this just showed there was no permanent nerve damage.

    On the pain, my experience was interesting. In the lower leg and foot, where most of my symptoms when walking/standing are bad, I didn't even feel it but in "good" places like my inner quad and buttocks it the pain was terrible.

    Best of luck! JH
  • My EMG/NCV test was quite painful in some places, but not unbearable. I had only minor discomfort in some areas, but the needles in my ankles and feet hurt a lot, for some reason. During the test the neurologists told me that there were clear signs of nerve damage (peripheral neuropathy, polyneuropathy and radiculopathy is what they wrote on my report). I've heard that it doesn't always show nerve damage clearly in every patient, however.
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