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Your doctor mentioned that an electrodiagnostic study could be beneficial. What are electrodiagnostic studies and what can you expect? The following explains the common types of studies and reasons why your doctor would want you to have one.

What are electrodiagnostic studies?

A commonly used technique to test muscles and nerve function is an Electrodiagnostic (EDX) study (sometimes called EMG for electromyography). There are two types of studies: one tests nerves (referred to as “nerve conduction studies”). The other tests muscles (referred to as “electromyography”). These studies allow the  physician to learn how nerves and muscles are functioning. This testing process often helps to narrow down the possible causes of back/body pain and weakness.

Nerve Conduction Studies

Doctors perform these studies by placing sensors over nerves in the arms and legs and then stimulating those nerves with small electric sensations. Most patients report that these studies are uncomfortable but not necessarily painful. The doctor can see how fast or slow nerves are functioning. Comparisons are made to averages to determine if the nerves are working correctly.

Electromyography (EMG)

To directly evaluate the electrical activity caused by a muscle contraction, an EMG is performed by placing small needles in the arm, leg, or back muscles. Most patients state that the needles feel like a small cramp or a splinter in the muscle. EMG allows the doctor to evaluate how well muscles are functioning. Additionally, the EMG study can help determine if muscles are receiving the proper signal from nerves.

When Would I Receive an EDX?

When the reason for pain, tingling, or weakness isn’t apparent, electrodiagnostic studies are considered . A study will determine the severity of nerve injury, or how badly a nerve is pinched in the neck or back. Electrodiagnostic studies can also help determine if other conditions are occurring.

What should my doctor know about me to determine if I should have an EDX?

The doctor performing the electrodiagnostic test will ask questions about the nature of your pain, tingling, and weakness. This will help them determine which nerves and muscles to test. The physician may also ask questions about other conditions that may affect the nerves and muscles, such as diabetes and thyroid problems. Your doctor should know if you have ever had a neck or back surgery.

Are there any reasons I should NOT have an EDX study?

If you are on blood-thinning medications, such as aspirin, Plavix, heparin, or warfarin (Coumadin), the physician may not perform specific portions of the test. You could be asked to stop the blood-thinning medication before the electrodiagnostic test if the EDX study’s information is absolutely necessary.  Also, if you have a pacemaker or similar device, certain portions of the test may not be performed.
You can also visit knowyourback.org for an array of spine health topics.
This article is for educational purposes only. The article is not a substitute for care from a qualified healthcare provider.

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