Welcome to the torture table of EMG and Nerve Conduction Tests

by Molly
(McLean, VA)

I just survived the combo EMG/Nerve Conduction test, and it was both worse than I thought it would be and not as bad as I feared. Let me explain. I have had the classic carpal tunnel symptoms of numbness and tingling in both hands, with a bonus of very painful tendonitis in my left, dominant hand.

A cortisone shot helped the tendonitis for a few months but the pain came back after I lifted my grandchild's 16 pounds for a week (I'm 59 years old).

Hounded by my sister who had successful carpal tunnel surgery in both hands, I decided I needed the emg/nc test to see what's going on with my hands. The nerve conduction test was done with electrodes, no needles, so there wasn't sharp pain. Just a really creepy electrical pulse running through your hand. Over and over and over again. I think it went on for about 15 minutes per hand. It's like hitting your funny bone over and over again. And it didnt hurt any more on the left, sensitive hand than the right. So far so good.

Then the doctor came in with the needles for the EMG test. Now that was painful and messy. Needles stuck into my muscles about 4 or 5 times in each arm, and then you flex your muscles. Hurts more in the hands than in the upper arm. Left me with blood spots and big bruises up and down my arms.

But let me say this - it wasn't as bad as a trip to the dentist for some procedure. Actually, after I left the office, it occurred to me that I felt like I'd been with amateur, jovial torturers. Just some light pain and creepy sensations. And I felt like a pin cushion for about 24 hours. And in case you're wondering, the doctor confirmed carpal tunnel in both hands, with my left hand having "one of the worst cases" he'd ever seen.

But he said most patients were successful with splints and therapy and usually avoided surgery. We'll see.....


Joshua Answers:

Hi Molly.

Thanks for sharing!

A jolly amateur torturer. I like that. :)

So, you had some Carpal Tunnel Symptoms on one side and Tendonitis (see: What Is Tendonitis on the other.

And they tested each side, and came back with a Carpal Tunnel Diagnosis on each side.

Ok, cool.

And they set you up with a Wrist splint and brace, told you to Rest, take Anti-inflammatory drugs like Ibuprofen, etc?

Did they mention anything about carpal tunnel symptoms coming from compression up at the front of the neck/chest/shoulder?

Anyhoo, what exactly are you doing now to try to avoid surgery? You don't have to answer, of course, but I have a great curiosity about this kind of thing.

See Related: Thank God If You've Never Had A Nerve Conduction Test

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Joshua Tucker, B.A., C.M.T.
The Tendonitis Expert

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Comments for Welcome to the torture table of EMG and Nerve Conduction Tests

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Jan 22, 2012
More pain after the hand study than before
by: Laurie

The nerve conduction test was definately not fun, but not that horrible either. It is now 1 week after the test though and I am having much more pain in my hands (at least 100% worse then before the test)and it is very difficult to use them-and the pain keeps me awake at night-unbearable.

I haven't seen much about others having this experience and supposedly there are no side effects or negative effects of having the study. (mine showed carpral tunnel in both hands)

Not sure what to do now-I feel like something happened during the testing.


Joshua Comments:

Hi Laurie.

The official story is that there are no side effects or potential downsides, but there are.

If your body isn't working properly, which it's not when there's electrical dysfunction, nerve and muscle pain, nutritional deficiency etc, then the pain, sensation, and current added to the body by the nerve conduction test can make things worse.

If you have more pain after a nerve conduction test, regardless of whether you have tendonitis or carpal tunnel syndrome, you still need to do all the RIGHT things to get rid of nagative factors causing your pain.

For example, see: Magnesium for Tendonitis

Mar 06, 2012
Make it stop! Bruising and increased pain from nerve conduction study
by: Heidi

I just had a nerve conduction study for carpel tunnel (which was negative). The shocks were horrendously painful (and I have a high pain tolerance). I think my brain has blocked out the session with the needle afterwards.

I staggered out wondering what century I was in, bleeding from several needle holes. It was a bit sore for 2 days, with one nickel sized bruise near my elbow from a hematoma. Then 2 nights later I woke up with a bruise from my palm down my wrist, about 6 inches! And pain.

Now, nights later, the pain is radiating up into my shoulder from my wrist. I can't sleep - the pain just seems to be ratcheting up - and ibuprofen no longer touches it.

All of this from a test to make sure my tendonitis in the wrist wasn't cts. I'm beginning to worry about whether this escalation will continue!


Joshua Comments:

Hi Heidi.

Yikes, that's not the most pleasant experience in the world....thanks for sharing.

For whatever reason, your body is not happy with all that....it isn't dealing with the extra juice the test shot into you.

The increased pain etc makes sense. Get some electrolytes into you: Lots of Magnesium, some potassium, etc.

See: Magnesium Dosage

If your body doesn't have enough of the right building blocks, it literally can't handle the extra energy.

As far as the bruising....are you generally anemic? That makes sense, in a nutritional deficiency context (iron and/or magnesium and/or Vitamin D and/or Vitamin B8 and B12, all of the above, etc).

My first focus for you: Nutrition, pronto.
My second is, ice dipping the entire forearm (See: How To Reduce Inflammation).

Apr 27, 2012
Exacerbated CTS and increased pain from previous ulnar vein damage after EMG/NCT
by: Donna

I had an EMG Nerve Conduction Test today. My doctor was very comforting and was very good at explaining what he was going to do next.

It did help my anxiety, but it didn't change the fact the there was a lot of discomfort from the shocks and the needle sticks. I had an ulnar vein damage and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome that lasted for 3 weeks. It has been gone for a week prior to having the EMG/NCT.

However, after the test, it feels like the pain from my CTS and Ulnar vein damage is coming back. Same arm, same pain, same site. I understand that it was necessary to complete the test to find out what is causing the tingling/ numbness of my feet and hands.

Is it possible for the NCT to trigger the CTS pain?


Joshua Comments:

Hi Donna.

It is ENTIRELY possible for a nerve conduction test to make Carpal Tunnel Symptoms worse.

From what you just said, I suspect that you have some significant nutritional issues at play. Both the 'anxiety' as well as the rest.

Carpal Tunnel Symptoms can come from nutritional issues, which the test doesn't not measure nor take into account.

I notice that the people with the greatest negative reaction to the nerve conduction test also suffer from nutritional insufficiency/deficiency.

If the body doesn't have the nutritional building blocks it needs, muscles don't work quite right and the body's electrical system literally can't handle the electrical input from the test. And that causes pain/problem.

1. Get your Vitamin D level tests ASAP.

2. See: Magnesium for Tendonitis

3. See: Carpal Tunnel and Vitamin B6 Deficiency

May 27, 2012
Flew up off table, so painful had to stop test
by: Anonymous

I had an EMG at Bellevue Hospital in NYC. It was done by a student. I kept having to have them stop the test because I couldn't tolerate it.

The other student who was in the room had to leave because he couldn't watch. The supervisor was there though and seemed very annoyed that I was so 'sensitive". My leg kept flying up off the table and the needles into my muscle were painful. He twisted them around, why I don't know.

Afterwards, I had spasms for a time.

Since then, the vein in my leg and foot has been protruding. When I went to the rehab clinic, the doctor said it looks like an occlusion that could have happened from scar tissue due to inflammation. I don't know if it's related to the test, but I didn't have ti before.

I had the test due to a slip and fall with injury to that area, several month prior to the test.


Joshua Comments:

Ouch! Thanks for sharing.

Some bodies are more sensitive than others. Sometimes naturally, sometimes due to nutritional insufficiency/deficiency (if you don't have what the body needs, it can't respond adequately to the extra signal coming in).

And if your muscles tense and stay tense, that makes sense that it'd make veins/arteries stick out/bulge.

Oct 06, 2012
Painful Test and Pain afterwards
by: Ms Dee

I had a nerve test done 2 days ago,and my left arm & right leg keep havin sharp pains. The doctor stuck needles in both legs & both arms,but I felt the greatest amount of pain in my left leg & right arm while testing,I yelled & banged on the wall until she took the needles out of both areas.

Last nite the pain in my right arm woke me up out of my sleep. When I woke up this morning the pain was worse,I could'nt put my arm straight down or turn the faucet on. The bottom side of my left leg is tender and my right calf been having shooting pain.

What is going on?


Joshua Comments:

Hi Ms. Dee.

What's going on? You got stabbed (and assumably electrocuted). Your body didn't like that.

Your body -really- didn't like that. Which means there's been a HUGE hyper-response. Which means, ironically, that you feel more pain and problem.

It also hints that your body is nutritionally insufficient, in that it can't handle the (A. extra electricity and (B. respond in a 'normal' way.

If the body can't bring it'self back to normal, something's out of whack systemically.

Nov 22, 2012
hello, EMG was a full 1hr and a half of writhing pain
by: Anonymous

So what if we had one of these tests done, it was the worst experience of my life, but I am fit and feed myself nutrionaly as I should? This was worse than any root canal or surgery I've ever had. I keep seeing these sites on the internet that say an EMG is a completely painless procedure....it was a full 1hr and a half of writhing pain.


Joshua Comments:

Well, if doctors say it's a completely painless procedure, it certainly must be...right?

Dec 16, 2012
by: Anonymous

Had nerve conduction on back of neck,still hurts and knot where i was stuck.

Dec 17, 2012
is EMG necessary
by: Anonymous

I have MS. I have been having tingling in my legs at night. My Nuero wants me to do an EMG. From what I am reading you seem to have more pain after than before. Doesn't seem to be any medicine except a pain killer for it.

I feel like there is really no reason for me to have one. Being that it only bugs me at night in bed before I go to sleep. I think having the EMG is no benefit to me. Am I being too picky?

Feel as if I am just being a guiena pig for nothing.
I don't have carpal or diabetes.
I will understand if I don't get a response.


Joshua Comments:

Hi AnonyMS.

Yeah, I'm on the same page there with you. If you for sure have MS, then what's the point of an EMG?

Plus, if you nervous system has electrical issues, and you get an EMG, there's a likelyhood that you're REALLY not going to like the experience.

I'm curious if you actually have MS, or if you just have nutritional deficiency symptoms thatlook like MS.

Jan 07, 2013
Bilateral Carpal Tunnel nerve conduction test
by: Connie C.

Hook me up to an EMG -- hilarity ensues.

I bet the neurologist never woke up this morning to the notion of having a patient like me darken his doorway. We shook hands and made introductions. Then I hopped up on the table and he hooked me up.

I didn't think it would be all that bad but he zapped me the first time. WOW! Just... WOW. I let out a yelp. Then I started laughing so hard I thought I was gonna pee myself. This startled the poor man so badly. haha!

Zap. Jolt. HAHAHAHA! Zap. Jolt. BAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!*snort* Zap. JOLT! OMYGOD HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Zap. JOLT!!!!!!!!!!!!! OMIEFFINGOD HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!! This went on for about a half hour. Poor guy. He probably thought I was NUTS. :D

Finally the test was complete. He said After that first one, I thought we were done. WHY? (mild surprise) Apparently not all of his patients could handle repeated electrical shocks, and begged off after the first one. Go figure.

He was very very amazed I did not cuss him out once. I only would have reserved that for being in the hands of the enemy and having them jolt me to try to wrench national secrets out of me. "Go F yourself, hahahaha" Nope, he was doing it solely to try to heal. So, I didn't go bananas on him. :)

Grinning ear to ear, we shook hands and I left. I have bilateral carpal tunnel with the right hand being worse than the left one. With possible surgery down the road.

What a turn on :D


Joshua Comments:

Hi Connie. Thanks for sharing! That sounded fun! (To watch, anyway.)

Some nervous systems respond with panic. Some respond with over the top laughter. Either way, I'm glad you survived it.

What's happening with your bilateral Carpal Tunnel Syndrome these days?

Oh, and what was the findings/results of the nerve conduction test?

Jan 07, 2013
2004 hospitalized with Polymyositis and had nerve conduction test
by: Rebecca H

Every test the hospital had in conjunction with this weakness we administered. I could hardly turn over in bed myself and had to pull myself sitting. They wheeled me in bed to this test.

They started with low electrical bursts which made me cry. by the time they hit the height my entire body jumped off the bed. Later they told me that the Dr. who administered the test had never seen readings like this.

I am in remission now in 2012 but I have wide spread pain that they can not explain.


Joshua Comments:

Hi Rebecca.

Yes, when the body's electrical system is out of whack, it DOES NOT LIKE the external stimulus of added electricity from a nerve conduction test.

Do I correctly understand from your short message that all your test results came back showing that there's nothing wrong with you?

Clearly something is. Have they stopped looking?

1. What is your Vitamin D level? If you don't know, please go get a level taken.

Jan 26, 2013
EMG done on hands/wrists/arms and pain in hands
by: Barb

Hi I went to my doctor because of bad pains and numbness in both my hands and wrists at night.
She did bloodwork to confirm I didn't have a b-12 deficiency and to check my electrolytes. Lab results came back normal.

Well, also had to have EMG done yesterday on hands/wrists and forearms to test for carpal tunnel. I should know results next week at my follow up. But my question is how common is it for the hands to constantly hurt after having the EMG done? Like my left hand feels like its been smashed against a car door or something.

Difficult to type or drive with my left hand. Not only discomfort in that hand but right too (I'm right handed) but my pain is not as bad in right hand. Also, when the dr did the needle sticks he only did 2 jabs each side and man they were jabs. On my right ya the needle went right in the vein and I felt like when the doctor did the stick on left side he stabbed me not stuck me... Like he may had well have used a steak knife.

Also how common is a burning sensation like someone rubbed icy hot on my hand?


Joshua Comments:

Why didn't the doctor check for Vitamin B6?

See: Carpal Tunnel and Vitamin B6 Deficiency

A steak knife? Youch!

Nerve conduction test side effects like what you describe is more common that we'd like to think, especially minor or mild symptoms.

Everybody's relationship with pain and stimulus is different, of course, but it is my belief that the post-emg symptoms you experience are ultimately due to a lack of nutrition in the body.

If the body doesn't have what it needs to work right, then that extra pain sensation and electrical current causes more disruption than it should. Thus the smashed hand sensation. Basically, your body couldn't handle the extra electrical current.

Along those lines, see: Thank God If You've Never Had A Nerve Conduction Test

Also, see: My Nerve Conduction Test For Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Jan 26, 2013
Diagnosis after emg
by: Anonymous

Well I have been diagnosed with severe carpal tunnel with bad damage to the left hand-- go figure, I'm right handed. So doctor says at my age only surgery will fix this, which I'm for doing what it takes to fix.

I meet with the surgeon next week for a consultation, I just hope for the best. Pain is almost constant in the wrists now day or night.

Difficultly to do the things I love. But it explains why it hurts my hand so much when my ten year old squeezes my hand when she holds it. I just want to be better and get back to life with my three babies.


Joshua Comments:

Hi Anonymom.

I can certainly appreciate your desire to be pain free.

However, I'm curious what the heck your doctor is smoking when he states that 'only surgery will fix this'.

1. Will he guarantee that surgery will fix this?

2. Will he guarantee that surgery won't make it worse?

3. Does he offer a money back guarantee?

4. Did he check even a little bit to see if lack of nutrition is playing a role in your Carpal Tunnel Symptoms?

5. What does 'bad damage' to the hand mean, exactly? Has it been crushed? Cut? Smashed?

Here are some questions you may want to ask the surgeon when you do your consult: Quiz Your Doc

Let me know what s/he says during the Carpal Tunnel surgery consult. I'd be very curious to know.

In the meantime you may want to learn a little bit about Carpal Tunnel and Vitamin B6 Deficiency

Also see: Magnesium For Tendonitis

Also make sure that you understand the mechanisms of the Process of Inflammation and the Pain Causing Dynamic.

Feb 02, 2013
Needles really hurt, had to have me quit the test
by: Ann

I had the needle and the pads. The needle really hurt, especially when he was trying to find the nerve and had to move that needle around in my leg. I had him to quit, I could not stand the pain.

I am sorry if I have scared anyone who may be having to have this done.

Apr 02, 2013
My Experience With Needle EMGs & Nerve Conduction Studies
by: Debbie Cantrell

I was an EMG (electromyography)Tech for approximately 11years. I assisted our hospital's Physiatrist in performing the EMGs & Nerve Conduction Studies. She (the doctor) didn't believe in the needle Nerve Conduction Studies.

With the equipment we had it wasn't necessary. The only time we used a needle was when we performed a needle EMG, with no electric impulses. The only time we used needles & electricity was when we tested for Guillian Barre syndrome.

I had all of these tests performed on myself when I had no health issues & to tell the truth the only uncomfortable test was the one for Guillian Barre syndrome. Toward the end it was becoming hard to endure.

I do want to say that each patient's response to the test is individual to the patient. Some people slept through both tests & then there were some who could not tolerate any of the tests at all.

Even with the intensity of the stimulation at the lowest it could be, some people couldn't tolerate it. So it depends on the patient, the illness that is being tested for & the way the tests are performed.

There are horror stories out there because of the person (doctor or technician) doing the test improperly. Try to find someone who can do the testing with the least invasiveness to the patient.


Joshua Comments:

Hi Debbie.

Thanks for sharing your experience. It's great to hear from a pro.

It makes sense to me that different people with different physical situations will be able to handle the test differently.

Related: Pain From Hell From The Nerve Conduction Test

Related: The Test Almost Made Me Throw Up

Fluoroquinolones like Levaquin, Cipro, Avelox, Ciprofloxacin, etc, deplete the body of various nutrition and seem to put the body into a state where it has a very poor ability to deal with the extra elecrical input of a test (much less the pain from needles etc) Excruciating Nerve Conduction Test After Floxin Side Effects

Nov 12, 2014
by: Anonymous

I had the test done yesterday both needles and electrodes. After reading posts on the net and hearing from others i was terrified of the procedure.

To my surprise i flew through it with hardly any pain. The electrodes was more annoying than anything and the needles hurt less than the flu shot. I

did take the day off of work the next day although i could of went in and bared through the day but the rest will do me good hence i am sore and have a tingly annoying feeling in legs where the test was done.

I had my left leg feet and lower back tested. Not sure of the results yet. So this is for those who have to look forward to this test its not at all as bad as most say but everyone is different.

I have had worse experiences at the dentists. I hope this helps someone else in the future and wish i would of seen a post like this ahead of time. The fear i experienced before the procedure was a waste of energy.

Nov 22, 2014
EMG not that bad
by: Dee

Too all who have to experince a EMG dont let the net or others scare you away. I had one done yesterday and i got through the entire test and I have low pain tolernace.

Well least i used to think so but after i got through the EMG im starting to think different. First they used the electrods with shocks to my legs feet and my lower back on one side then they a flipped me over for the other side. I probalbly obtained less then 10 shocks on each side.

Then they inserted the needle electrods and there wasnt much pain and some of them i didnt even feel. I hate needles to add and think the flu shot hurt worse. My test results are not in yet but i have experience years of lower back pain and recently the legs and feet starting hurting as well.

I am sore today with tingly legs and feet.

Everyone is different but i found this test not as bad as i feared it would be at all. Hopefully now to find some answers and just glad its over. So Im hear to tell everyone dont let the net scare you away or others than had the test that say its horrible.

Its not pleasant but its tolerable and if I needed it again i would be fearless.


Joshua Comments:

Hi Dee.

Thanks for sharing!

How long before the soreness and tingles went away?


See Related: EMG Nerve Conduction Test Not So Bad

See Related: I Won't Lie My Nerve Conduction Test Was Not Pleasant I Have Actually Had This Test Performed 3 Times

Jan 09, 2015
emg/nerve conduction
by: Carrie

Had an appointment with a Neurologist today, but think I was abducted by aliens on my way to the hospital because I ended up in a torture chamber.

I had no idea I was walking into an emg/nerve conduction test (I am always the last to know).

Very uncomfortable, but it sounds like I had it easy compared to the other posters here.

The Tech. was great explaining what he was doing, and answering any questions I had. He was joking the whole time, and apologizing for the discomfort.

He told me if I needed to throw out any words worse than the "holy shit"s I already was, to be his guest. He loved that he had one of two jobs where he could torture people, legally, and get paid for it. No blood from the needles.

Joint and muscle stiffness and pain is why I went in. Half of my left hand/fingers have felt asleep for about 4 years now.


Joshua Comments:

Hi Carrie.

Thanks for sharing!

And yikes, that sounds less than fun.

At least the tech had a good time. :)

So....what are you doing to get rid of the numbness etc?

Mar 07, 2015
3 EMG/Nerve Conduction Tests not bad pain
by: Chris

I have had 3 such tests....two in the last year.

All tests involved "pads" and needles. In my opinion, they are not "difficult" or "uncomfortable" tests for the most part.

A one arm test takes about 25 minutes. Two arms double that time. I certainly would not object to additionally testing if required again....and I would certainly get it within 3 months prior to any surgery so you have a baseline before surgery!

The needle portion of the test (which "listens" to the muscles) is the more uncomfortable portion.

For me, the worse needle location is the fleshy portion of the palm by the thumb. Remnants of the needle location can be felt for maybe 15 minutes after the test.

If you people think such tests are truly uncomfortable, you really have no idea of what a pain scale feels like. On my 0-10 scale, with 0 being no pain and 10 passing out as a result of pain (I've been there a couple times and the body will make you black out when you cant take it anymore) and 9.5 is get my gun as I want to shoot myself, EMG/nerve conductance rates maybe a 4 -5. The nerve conductance portion is simply passing a bit of electrical current through your arm and you feel a small "shock". The EMG is worse.

But seriously, EMG/nerve tests are NOT by an standard an uncomfortable test.

I'd get these performed all day before I have to redo any upper extremity MRI (hand, wrist, forearm, elbow) again without drugs (more below).

The elbow MRI is the worst in my opinion.....just crammed face down into a small tube (such is true with all upper extermity MRIs) and your arm locked in position for 45-50 minutes with some "padding".

After 10 minutes you want out. I have learned however after numerous upper extremity MRIs to take/request 1.0 mg. Xanax and 500 mg Vocdin 1 hour before the scheduled MRI time and now I practically sleep through the MRIs!


Joshua Comments:

Thanks for sharing Chris.

Everybody's pain tolerance is different, and everybodey's physicality and health is different.

There are various scenarios including nutritional insufficiency (as a factor) that the body just can't happily handle that extra current.

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