In diagnosing muscle and nerve disorders, physicians often conduct 2 different tests -- a needle electromyogram (EMG) and a nerve conduction study. Needle EMGs test the electrical activity of muscles, while nerve conduation studies test how fast and well a nerve sends these electrical signals. When functioning correctly, the nerves send electrical impulses to the muscles, which then respond in a particular way. When they do not respond as expected, physicians conduct tests to determine the cause. Typically, needle EMGs and nerve conduation studies are conducted in tandem, providing the diagnosing physician a complete picture of the patient’s condition.
For best results, it is important that patients use a physician trained in electrodiagnostic medicine to conduct their EMGs and nerve conduation studies. These physicians typically have primary board training in neurology or physiatry, then spend additional time to become experts in the diagnosis of diseases related to the electrical impulses sent between muscles and nerves. Search the American Board of Electrodiagnostic Medicine (ABEM) directory to find a board-certified physician near you.
In addition to needle EMGs and nerve conduation studies, physicians may use other types of tests to diagnose neuromuscular disorders. These tests may include ultrasound, biopsies, and genetic testing.
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