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How Can NCV and EMG Tests Help You?

A technician performing a NCV test

How Can NCV and EMG Tests Help You?

To learn how an NCV test or EMG test can help you neurologically, you first have to define these types of exams. These electrodiagnostic tests measure muscle and nerve electrical activity. If you experience numbness or tingling that affects your arms, legs, neck, back, or spine, you will benefit from taking these two tests.

These tests also cover health problems, such as muscle cramping or a weakness in the arms or legs. Neurologists depend on the two tests to pinpoint a neurological ailment and find out the reasons for a disorder or disease.

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NCV & EMG Tests - How They Work Together

NCV & EMG tests are acronyms used for electromyography and nerve conduction velocity testing. You might say these two tests work in combination to find out the causes for nerve pain and muscle tension. Therefore, just like salt and pepper or oil and vinegar, you cannot have one test without the other.

When NCV and EMG Testing is Advised

A doctor will refer his or her patient to a neurologist to receive EMG and NCV testing if they need to determine the following:

When you have NCV and EMG testing performed, you usually will undergo testing for both exams at the same time. You won’t need to schedule separate appointments.

After the neurologist receives the results of the test, he or she will notify your regular health care provider about the outcome. Patients who take the tests should tell their doctor, before testing, if they regularly take aspirin or blood thinners or have a bleeding disorder.

Taking the EMG Test

An EMG test is used to measure the electrical impulses inside of the muscle or to determine how the muscle responds to electrical activity and stimulation of the nerves. Employing the test allows a doctor to distinguish between a nerve and muscle disorder, thereby allowing for a more precise diagnosis.

When performing an EMG, the neurologist inserts a thin electrode needle in the patient’s skin at the site of a specific muscle. The machine records the electrical activity as the patient relaxes and contracts the muscle. This activity is shown on a device called an oscilloscope. The oscilloscope reveals the electrical activity in a pattern of wavy lines.

The Administration of the NCV Test

An NCV gauges the speed that electrical impulses travel along nerves. During this test, the technician applies electrodes with patches to the skin at the site the doctor wants to review. He or she then sends a low level amount of electricity through the electrodes to stimulate the nerve. You might compare this electrical transmission to a shock of static electricity. As the electricity travels along the nerve, the velocity is measured and displayed on a screen.

Preparing for EMG and NCV Testing

Before the EMG and NCV tests, don’t apply location or cream at the test sites.

During the Testing

Before you take an EMG or NCV test, the technician will direct you to either lie down or sit back. You may experience a mild level of discomfort during each test when the technician delivers the electricity to the site or when the neurologist inserts the needle electrodes.

Some patients may feel startled during the generation of the electrical impulses during the NCV, but it’s a generally a mild level of discomfort.

After the Tests

After the EMG test, you may experience muscle soreness or have some mild bruising or bleeding where the technician inserted the needle electrodes.

Risks Associated with the Tests

While both the EMG and NCV test are safe to take, you do have a small risk of infection after the EMG test because of the insertion of the needle electrodes. The neurologist will of course ensure a sterile needle is used.

Conditions NCV Tests Diagnose

The main reason for NCV testing is to assess the amount of nerve damage a patient has. Therefore, an NCV test often aids a neurologist in diagnosing a multitude of conditions, such as herniated disc disease, sciatic nerve damage, carpal tunnel syndrome, and peripheral neuropathy.

Sciatic Nerve Damage

The sciatic nerve, which is the largest nerve in the central nervous system (CNS) runs down the back and extends into the buttocks, legs, and feet. Nerve damage in this area contributes to lower back pain and disc herniation.

Often, herniated discs affect the sciatic nerve because, when they move out of place, they place pressure on the surrounding nerves. An NCV then can show the extent of damage to the sciatic nerve. An EMG can also be used to support the diagnosis.

Diagnosing Peripheral Neuropathy

In addition, a NCV can show the degree of nerve damage for common nerve conditions, such as peripheral neuropathy. Damaged peripheral nerves usually cause numbness, weakness, and pain in the feet and hands, the most common locations for the condition.

Symptoms often improve, with time, especially if the damage results from an underlying medical condition such as diabetes. The NCV reveals the degree of nerve fiber damage.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)

NCVs may also be used to diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome or CTS. The tests check median nerve functioning in the arm and wrist so the doctor can devise a treatment plan. An EMG can also help a doctor define a therapy.

Conditions that EMGs Can Diagnose

Often EMGs are used to make diagnosis for conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) or multiple sclerosis (MS). The test is also used to diagnose myasthenia gravis, peripheral neuropathy, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). In addition, doctors can confirm diagnosis for polymyositis, sciatic nerve dysfunction, and radial nerve dysfunction.

The use of both tests, the NCV and EMG, allows a doctor to rule out certain symptoms and conditions so he or she can clearly see what is going on with both the muscles and the nerves.

Improve Your Health and Life

If your doctor advises that you take NCV and EMG tests, they can do a lot in helping you determine the reason for neurological problems, such as pain, numbness, or tingling. By taking the tests, you can take the first step toward improving your health and life.

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