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Differences Between EMG and Nerve Conduction Studies

EMG and Nerve Conduction Studies

There are many types of tests, laboratory and otherwise, that are requested by your physician that would allow them to better come up with an assessment and diagnosis. Two of these tests are EMG, which stands for Electromyogram and nerve conduction studies. How are they related? How are they different?

How are they similar?

An Electromyogram or EMG measures the electrical activity of your muscles. A nerve conduction study measures how well and how fast your nerves can send those electrical signals. Why are they done and what are the expected results that would help your physician learn from such tests?

What is EMG?

An Electromyogram is done to help find diseases that are related to muscle tissue damage, damage to the nerves, or problems related to gaps that may be found between nerves and the muscles. Usually, an EMG is requested if your physician thinks that you might have herniated disc. It is also requested to rule out ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. It may also be requested for a certain illness called MG, myasthenia gravis. It will also help in finding weakness, paralysis, and even muscle twitching.

What is nerve conduction study?

A nerve conduction study, on the other hand, would be requested if your physician would want to know how impulses make your muscle react in certain ways. Remember that your nerves control the muscles in your body by sending electrical signals which are called impulses. If your muscles do not react in a certain way, there might be a problem with the impulses being sent, hence, the request for such study. If one has nerve and muscle problems, it will cause the muscles to react and function abnormally. This study is requested to know if there is damage to the peripheral side of your nervous system, which means all the nerves that lead away from the brain, spinal cord, and smaller nerves going out to the different nerves. A sample illness that can be diagnosed from this test is carpal tunnel syndrome.

To better understand how an EMG and Nerve Conduction Study would vary for different types of individuals, see the comparison below:

Normal Individual:

EMG: will show no electrical activity when the muscles are not being used. A smooth, wavy line will show on the recording if a muscle contracts.

NCS: will show that the nerves send electrical impulses to the muscles using normal speeds.

Abnormal individual:

EMG: Abnormal wave lines will show on the recording if the muscle contracts.

NCS: will show that the speed of nerve impulses are slower than average. Although as a person gets older, these impulses are generally slower, but if someone has a nerve problem the speeds that would show on the recording would be slower.


Our body reacts to certain injuries differently. At the same time, there may be some things that we feel on the inside that we may not be aware of that might already be an indication that there ‘is’ something wrong already. This is why our body manifests problems internally through little things, like muscle twitching, or other certain movements that are already out of the ordinary. Going to the doctor to have oneself thoroughly checked is the most important thing to consider.

Nerves, impulses, muscles, and many more internal ‘workings’ in our body should not be taken lightly, and when you feel something that is out of the unusual and becoming too frequent in happening, take time to give your body the rest it deserves. If these on-goings still persist to exist, visit your physician to have yourself checked.

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