Nerve Function Testing

Nerve function testing refers to the variety of electrophysiological tests that are performed to diagnose problems in muscles and peripheral nerves.  The basic science concepts upon which these tests are based were discovered long ago.  Scientists first began to record the electrical activity generated by voluntary muscle contraction over 120 years ago!  Needle electromyography (EMG) testing has been performed for over 50 years.  Nerve function testing has become an established medical diagnostic tool.

Testing is performed most commonly by specialists in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation or Neurology.  Two types of tests are commonly performed, Nerve Conduction Studies (NCS) and Electromyography (EMG).  These tests may be ordered by your physician to help determine the source of numbness, tingling or progressive weakness in the extremities.  These tests can also be useful in helping to diagnose pinching or inflammation of spinal nerve roots that can arise from conditions, such as cervical or lumbar disc herniation (See Cervical Radiculopathy and Lumbar Radiculopathy).

These tests are very safe and can be performed with very limited discomfort to the patient right here in the offices of Vermont SpineWorks and Rehabilitation.  The following sections provide a general overview of both NCS and EMG, followed by descriptions of various types of conditions that are most commonly seen and that can be diagnosed with nerve function testing by Dr. Lefkoe.