Electromyography makes finding nerve pain origin easier

Author: Ivanhoe Newswire/Amy Oshier, WINK News
Published: Updated:

Locating the source of nerve pain can be like chasing a ghost, but now doctors are finding a way to narrow down and diagnose nerve pain origin, giving new hope to patients.

It is estimated that 15 to 20 million Americans suffer from nerve pain.

Robin Martinoli, who retired from the Pentagon, is one of them. She took up quilting but painful carpal tunnel syndrome changed her plans.

“I will never get my feeling back in these two fingers. If I go to pick up needles when I quilt, and I’d l think I’ve got one, I’ve got three or four of them,” Martinoli said.

Carpal tunnel is caused by compression of the nerves in her hand and wrist that produce constant pain.

“Until you relieve the nerve compression, it’s generally not going to go away, so the key to a good nerve test is figuring out where the source of your nerve generation is so that we can address the root of the problem,” said Nichola Anastasio, a non-surgical orthopedic at Mercy Medical Center.

A tool called electromyography, or EMG, can help solve the problem. When nerve conduction and EMG are performed together, skin electrodes measure signals sent along the nerve. Then, a small EMG needle records electrical activity in the muscle.

The slower the signal, the greater the risk of damage.

“We did the nerve conduction test and confirmed that she had carpal tunnel on both sides,” Anastasio said. “She hadn’t completely ruined the nerve over 30 or 40 years. It still was
alive and intact. That allowed us the ability to justify carpal tunnel release, which takes the pressure off the nerve and relieves the symptoms.”

Martinoli said, “The recovery time was really quick and easy.”

EMG can also distinguish between compressive nerve injuries, like carpal tunnel and more serious neuromuscular diseases such as muscular dystrophy.

Patients are advised to wait 21 days post-nerve injury to have the nerve signal speeds measured.

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