10 Conditions Diagnosed With an EMG

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Sarah Lewis, PharmD on November 3, 2020
  • EMG Machine for testing nerve damage
    A Look at Nerve and Muscle Function
    An EMG—electromyogram—is a test that checks the health of nerves and muscles. An EMG involves inserting tiny needles into your muscles to record electrical activity. Your doctor may recommend this nerve conduction study to help diagnose nerve and muscle diseases and seizures. Read on to learn about conditions that doctors may diagnose with an EMG.
  • man in motorized wheelchair crossing public street
    1. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
    Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis—ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease—is a progressive neuromuscular disease. ALS causes muscle weakness and disability, eventually leading to breathing failure. Experts don’t fully understand what causes ALS and there is no cure for it. Doctors use medicines to slow the damage to nerves, relieve symptoms, and improve quality of life.
  • Wrist Exam
    2. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
    Carpal tunnel syndrome affects the median nerve that runs through the wrist. The nerve becomes pinched causing burning, tingling and numbness in the hand and fingers. The cause of carpal tunnel syndrome is compression of the median nerve and tendons in the wrist. Experts don’t fully understand why some people develop the nerve problem. Anti-inflammatory drugs and exercises can relieve the symptoms. Doctors usually recommend surgery for symptoms lasting more than six months.
  • 3D DNA
    3. Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease
    Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease is an inherited neurological disorder. It affects the motor and sensory nerves in the limbs. It causes muscle weakness in the legs and feet, foot deformities, gait problems, and loss of feeling in the legs and feet. It may affect the arms and hands in later stages.  Inherited gene mutations cause CMT in most cases. There is no cure for CMT. Physical therapy, occupational therapy, orthopedic devices, and surgery can help manage disabilities.
  • A young black disabled woman with a wheelchair and a bright colored sweater on a city sidewalk
    4. Lambert-Eaton Syndrome
    Lambert-Eaton syndrome is a disorder of the communication between nerves and muscles. It causes fatigue and weakness. It most often affects the limbs but can also cause problems with breathing, speaking and swallowing. Lambert-Eaton syndrome is an autoimmune disease. It often occurs in cancer patients, particularly those with lung cancer. There is no cure. Treatment focuses on treating any underlying cancer and managing symptoms with medications.
  • Boy with Cerebral Palsy
    5. Muscular Dystrophy
    Muscular dystrophy (MD) is a chronic disease that damages the skeletal muscles. It causes progressive weakness and loss of movement control. MD is actually a group of more than 30 genetic diseases. The most common type develops in childhood and primarily affects boys. There is no cure for MD. Doctors use different types of therapy and medications to control symptoms and improve muscle function.
  • At the Optician
    6. Myasthenia Gravis
    Myasthenia gravis (MG) is an autoimmune disease that weakens the skeletal muscles. It causes muscle weakness that worsens during activity and improves with rest. Vision problems are often the first symptom, but it can also affect chewing, talking, swallowing and breathing. Most people with MG have an abnormal thymus gland, but experts don’t fully understand the reason. Treatments include medications, immune system therapies, and removing the thymus gland.
  • Restless legs syndrome
    7. Peripheral Neuropathy
    Peripheral neuropathy is damage to the nerves that run from the brain and spinal cord to all parts of the body. It usually refers to nerves of the limbs. It is marked by numbness, burning, tingling and pain. Diabetes is a main cause of peripheral neuropathy. Other causes include autoimmune disorders, tumors, heredity, and nutritional deficiencies. In many cases, doctors don’t know the exact cause. Treating the underlying problem may help. Medications can improve symptoms.
  • Physical Therapy for Shoulder
    8. Polymyositis
    Polymyositis is a group of progressive muscle disorders. It is marked by chronic muscle inflammation and weakness on both sides of the body. Eventually, it affects breathing, swallowing and speaking. Experts don’t fully understand the cause, but it is similar to an autoimmune disease. There is no cure for polymyositis. Doctors treat the symptoms with drugs that suppress the immune system and reduce inflammation. Physical therapy can help maintain muscle strength.
  • man holding shoulder in pain
    9. Radiculopathy
    Radiculopathy—or pinched nerve—is a spinal nerve root injury. Nerve roots pass between the spinal vertebrae, where they can become pinched. Radiculopathy occurs most often in the neck and low back. It is marked by pain, weakness, tingling and numbness in the neck, arm, low back, or leg. Herniated discs and bone spurs are the most common causes. Anti-inflammatory medicines and physical therapy can help resolve radiculopathy. Surgery may be necessary in some cases.
  • Male rubbing his lower back
    10. Sciatica
    Sciatica is an injury to or pressure on the sciatic nerve—the nerve that runs from the spine down the back of the legs. It causes pain in the lower back, hips, and sometimes the back of the thighs. Numbness, tingling, burning and weakness in the legs may also occur. The most common cause is a herniated disc. Most people get better with medicines to reduce inflammation and physical therapy to strengthen the back. Surgery is sometimes necessary.
10 Conditions EMG Test Can Diagnose: Nerve & Muscle Problems
Electromyogram (EMG)
  1. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Fact Sheet. National Institutes of Health. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/amyotrophiclateralsclerosis/detail_ALS.htm
  2. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Fact Sheet. National Institutes of Health. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/carpal_tunnel/detail_carpal_tunnel.htm
  3. Cervical Radiculopathy (Pinched Nerve). American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00332
  4. Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease Fact Sheet. National Institutes of Health. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/charcot_marie_tooth/detail_charcot_marie_tooth.htm
  5. Clinical Overview of MG. Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America. http://www.myasthenia.org/healthprofessionals/clinicaloverviewofmg.aspx
  6. Lambert-Eaton Myasthenic Syndrome (LEMS). Muscular Dystrophy Association. https://www.mda.org/disease/lambert-eaton-myasthenic-syndrome
  7. NINDS Muscular Dystrophy Information Page. National Institutes of Health. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/md/md.htm
  8. Myasthenia Gravis Fact Sheet. National Institutes of Health. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/myasthenia_gravis/detail_myasthenia_gravis.htm
  9. Peripheral Neuropathy Fact Sheet. National Institutes of Health. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/peripheralneuropathy/detail_peripheralneuropathy.htm
  10. NINDS Polymyositis Information Page. National Institutes of Health. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/polymyositis/polymyositis.htm
  11. Sciatica. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00351
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Last Review Date: 2020 Nov 3
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