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What is an EMG (electromyogram)?

An electromyogram, also called EMG and electromyography, is a test that evaluates electrical activity within your nerves and muscles. Your doctor may recommend an EMG to help diagnose muscle weakness, muscular dystrophy, and other neuromuscular abnormalities. An EMG involves inserting tiny needles into your muscles to record electrical activity. 

An EMG is only one method used to diagnose neuromuscular abnormalities. You may have less invasive testing options depending on your condition. Discuss all your diagnostic options with your doctor to understand which options are best for you.  

Other procedures that may be performed

Your doctor may perform other procedures in addition to and EMG to diagnose neuromuscular abnormalities including:

  • Evoked potentials to analyze the electrical functioning of the nervous system. This test checks the nerve pathways through the spinal cord or from the eyes and ears. Evoked potentials can help diagnose dizziness, numbness, tingling, and visual disorders.

  • Nerve conduction velocity to study how well electrical signals travel through a nerve

Medical Reviewers: Daphne E. Hemmings, MD, MPH Last Review Date: Oct 8, 2012

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Medical References

  1. Brain Basics: Know Your Brain. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/brain_basics/know_your_brain.htm.
  2. Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease Overview. Muscular Dystrophy Association. http://mda.org/disease/charcot-marie-tooth/overview.
  3. Electromyography (EMG). Johns Hopkins Medicine. http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/test_procedures/neurological/electromyography_emg_92,P0....
  4. Electromyography and Nerve Conduction Studies (EMG). Harvard Health Publications, Harvard Medical School. http://www.health.harvard.edu/diagnostic-tests/electromyography-and-nerve-conduction-studies.htm.
  5. Electromyography. National Institutes of Health. http://www.cc.nih.gov/ccc/patient_education/procdiag/electromyography.pdf.
  6. Nerve Conduction Velocity (NCV). Johns Hopkins Medicine. http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/test_procedures/neurological/nerve_conduction_velocity_....
  7. Simply Stated: Electromyography and Nerve Conduction Velocities. Quest – MDA’s Research and Health Magazine. http://quest.mda.org/article/simply-stated-EMGs-and-NCV-tests.

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