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Monday, Sept. 23, 2019

Understanding Why You Hurt

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What an electrodiagnostic specialist can do to help

Are you and your physician trying to determine the reason for the tingling pain in your wrist? Are you working to weigh all of the options before you undergo surgery to relieve the aching in your lower back? Have you visited with your doctor about referring you to a specialist who could help pinpoint the cause of the pain — someone who uses the latest tools to help both you and your doctor determine the exact location of a nerve or muscle issue? An electrodiagnostic specialist has the extensive medical training necessary to find the cause of your pain and to help your physician be able to better treat you.

Electrodiagnostic specialists use electromyography (EMG) and Nerve Conduction Studies (NCS) to determine how well the body’s electrical signals are traveling to nerves and muscles and to diagnose what specific medical and surgical intervention may be needed. As an electrodiagnostic specialist, I have also found ultrasound to be a highly effective, non-invasive, visual approach for helping diagnose or rule out nerve and muscle disorders.

Patients are frequently referred to an electrodiagnostic specialist when they complain of muscle pain, numbness and tingling, neck pain, back pain, muscle weakness and muscle cramps. Electrodiagnostic studies may diagnose disorders of peripheral nerve including, but not limited to: carpal tunnel syndrome, sciatic nerve problems, herniated disk disease, polyneuropathy and neuropathy, peripheral nerve injury, pinched nerves/nerve trauma, the actual cause of back or neck pain, as well as unsuccessful neck or low back surgery.

Electromyography (EMG) specifically measures the electrical activity of muscles and NCS specifically measure how well the nerves send electrical signals. Nerves control the muscles in the body by sending electrical signals that make the muscles react in specific ways. An electrodiagnostic specialist should only examine the muscles necessary to determine the cause of a patient’s pain. He or she will look at and listen to the electrical signals that travel from the needle to the EMG machine and then read the signals. The procedure takes approximately 30 to 45 minutes and is an extension of the clinical examination.

There are no side effects when ultrasound is used to diagnose neuromuscular and skeletal pain. An EMG is also a very safe procedure with no serious side effects. There is sometimes brief tingling of hands and feet after the electrical tests, and the needle tests may result in slight bleeding or small bruises or swelling at the insertion sites. Muscles may also ache for a few hours after the needle tests, but this is usually minimal.

If you are seeking an answer to why you hurt, an electrodiagnostic specialist might be able to help. Ask your physician about a referral or contact an electrodiagnostic specialist directly.

Dr. Stephen Wheat is a graduate of Louisiana State University Medical School, Shreveport, and is triple board-certified in electrodiagnostic medicine, internal medicine, and physical medicine and rehabilitation. He has performed more than 19,000 electrodiagnostic procedures in his 30 years of medical practice. Offices are located at 385 West Bert Kouns Industrial Loop, Suite 500, and at 138 East 5th Street, Natchitoches. To find out more visit www.wheatmedical.com or call 318-352-4477.

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