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Why Do I Need an EMG?

If your doctor instructed you to undergo an EMG, or electromyography test, you may be wondering what exactly this test is for. You may also be nervous to have an EMG done, especially when you aren’t sure what it is or why you need it.

Learn more about the purpose of an EMG, why it is performed and what the process entails.

What is an EMG?

doctor_w_laptop-211x300An electromyography is a diagnostic procedure that will evaluate the health of your muscles as well as the nerve cells, or motor neurons, that control them. Your motor neurons transmit the signals that cause your muscles to contract and an EMG translates these signals which are then interpreted by a specialist.

An EMG can determine if you’re dealing with nerve dysfunction, muscle dysfunction, nerve-to-muscle signal transmission problems, and other neuromuscular abnormalities.

How does it work?

One or more small needles called electrodes are inserted through the skin and into the muscle. The electrodes pick up the electrical activity, or the response to the nerve’s stimulation of the muscle, and are displayed in waves on the monitor.

An EMG measures the electrical activity of muscle during rest, a small contraction and a larger contraction, although muscle tissue does not normally produce electrical signals during rest.

Doctor-with-elderly-woman-300x211When the electrode has been inserted, you may be asked to contract the muscle, for example, by lifting or bending your arm. The action will create a wave on the monitor that provides information about the ability of the muscle to respond when the nerves are stimulated.

About the Procedure

EMG is usually performed on an outpatient basis and will vary based on your condition or doctor. This test is sometimes following a nerve conduction study. A typical EMG follows the process below:

  • First, you’ ll be asked to remove any clothing, jewelry, hairpins, eyeglasses, hearing aids, or other metal objects that may interfere with the procedure.
  • You’ll sit or lie down and your doctor will locate the muscle to study. The skin will be cleansed with an antiseptic solution, the needle will be sterilized, then it will be inserted into the muscle.
  • A ground electrode will be positioned under your arm or leg. Five or more needle insertions may be necessary for the test. You may experience slight pain when the electrode is inserted.
  • You will be asked to relax and then perform slight or full-strength muscle contractions. The electrical activity from your working muscle will be measured and displayed on the monitor.

Premier Orthopaedics provides EMG and nerve-conduction studies. These studies test for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, as well as neurological and spine-related problems including pinched nerves that cause neck and back pain. This electrical testing of muscles and nerves will also detect problems such as muscle disease, pinched nerves, or nerve injuries.

If your doctor suggests EMG for you, trust the professionals at Premier to provide you with a seamless test and reliable results. Click here to set up a consultation.


Premier Orthopaedics is the largest orthopaedic group in Delaware and Chester counties. Premier provides patients with the full spectrum of orthopaedic services; including bone, muscle and joint care. Patients trust our specialists for their experience, expertise and commitment to exceptional patient care.