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Electromyogram: what it is and what it is for

by Alivia Nyhan
Published: Last Updated on

The electromyogram is a medical test that is performed to check the functioning of the nervous system and muscles by capturing their electrical activity through an electromyograph. This test allows detecting neuromuscular diseases, both congenital and those that have been able to develop suddenly or over time, recording the electrical activity that nerves and muscles generate when they exercise. The doctor in charge of performing this medical examination is a neurologist or neurophysiologist, and some of the diseases that can be detected are Duchenne dystrophy , carpal tunnel syndrome or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, among others. If you want to know more about this test, keep reading this FastlyHealarticle where we explainwhat the electromyogram is and what it is for .

What is an electromyogram

This medical test allows to determine in a simple and precise way different diseases of the nervous system and muscles by recording the electrical activity that they generate during their operation. Likewise, it is effective when it comes to knowing the intensity with which the signals that could alert about a disease of this type are manifested. The electromigram shows whether the registered alterations belong to the muscle or the nerves, analyzing the following elements:

  • The number of nerves that are activated.
  • The time they need to activate.
  • The time they remain active.
  • The amplitude of the electric currents.

What is an electromyogram for?

The electromyogram is carried out to be able to detect a series of muscular or neurological damages. It allows to establish if a person has symptoms of muscle weakness, loss of strength, tingling, cramps, among others.

  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis . Congenital disease in which nerve fibers are destroyed without apparent cause and without treatment. The destroyed nerve fibers are responsible for the movement of the spinal cord to the muscle.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome . It is the inflammation of the tissues that surround the tendons and exert pressure on the nerve that is in a canal in the wrist. When this duct narrows, it exerts pressure on the nerves, altering them.
  • Muscular dystrophies . They consist of an alteration in the muscles by which they generate fat instead of muscle fiber, leading to movement problems and bone malformations. These types of diseases usually appear in childhood and develop over time, such as Becker muscular dystrophy .
  • Neuropathies . Degenerative diseases of the nerves, which can be affected individually, multiple or in different parts of the body. The causes can be diverse, and some of them with diabetes or alcoholism.
  • Myasthenia gravis . Autoimmune disease that occurs in the connections of nerve fibers by the creation of antibodies that act against receptors for electrical signals.
  • Guillain-Barré syndrome . Infections that lead to infections in the immune system, affecting the nervous system and causing the loss of nervous function from the feet up. However, it is a disease with a good prognosis.

How an electromyogram is performed

Once the doctor has considered it appropriate to perform an electromyogram and you have a date for its completion, you should avoid exercising during the previous days as well as the use of creams in the area to be studied. Once in the hospital, the person in charge of carrying out the test will tell you to discover the part of the body that is going to be examined, and he will apply a liquid antiseptic to eliminate any germs that may be on the skin, which is totally painless. Subsequently, a series of needles are insertedthrough the skin to reach the muscle, which may cause some pain, although it is not a great discomfort. The needles are a series of sensors that allow to record nerve and muscle activity and the specialist will determine how much should be used so that the amount of data needed can be recorded. These fine needles have a wire that connects to an oscilloscope, which records electrical activity.

When all the electrodes have been placed, the specialist will tell you to move the part of the body to be studied, making certain movements from which the electrical signals will begin to be recorded. Subsequently, the patient must remain still and the electrodes perform electric shocks to generate muscle contractions. When the test is complete, the electrodes are removed and the area will be cleaned by applying dressings. The area may feel sore for a few days, although it is usually not a great discomfort.

Results of an electromyogram

Once the electrical activity of the muscles and the nervous system has been obtained, and these have been duly examined, the results may be two:

  • Normal results . The electromyogram did not detect any abnormal activity in the collected signals. In this case, the muscles do not emit any signals when they are at rest, while when a voluntary movement of the muscle is performed, the electrical activity is activated, giving rise to a recording of the signals. These signals must not present any abnormal activity for the result to be considered normal.
  • Abnormal results . When alterations have been detected in the signals emitted by the muscles, it will be possible to determine, depending on their characteristics, the type of condition that may be behind. It may be that an excess duration of muscle activity is detected, a decrease in the number of active nerves, etc.

This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to Electromyogram: what it is and what it is for , we recommend that you enter our Bones, Joints and Muscles category .

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