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Old 02-10-2007, 01:56 AM   #1
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Exclamation Extremely painful EMG

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I am a 27 year old female that has had lower back problems/pain for the past 10 years. The pain would come and go (sometimes going, and leaving me be for up to a year at a time) but would always return to torture me.
I had a recent episode of the most horrifying back pain I've ever experienced, with extensive numbness down my left thigh/calf, and was given several MRIs (without contrast). The results concluded that I had a herniated disk at the L4/L5 juncture, as well as severe lumbar spinal stenosis/osteoarthritis. My neurologist prescribed me two drugs: Flexirol and Percocet. Both of these drugs do give me some relief, but not enough to enable me to function well enough to return to work. I am now classified as totally disabled.
After about a month of being on these medications, I returned to my neurologist for a follow-up and he insisted that I have an EMG test performed to find out which nerves were being affected by the herniation to cause the numbness in my leg. I was told that the test would "not hurt", and oh boy..was THAT a lie!
After telling the woman that performed the EMG that I was very apprehensive, SHE TOO told me not to worry, and that it "wouldn't hurt." I made it through about HALF of the first part of the test (just the electrodes/no needles yet) before I absolutely couldn't take the pain any longer. Each "tiny" jolt of electricity given to me to test the nerves in my leg sent such a shock wave up my leg and into my back, that I nearly passed out several times due to the pain . It was AWEFUL!! My entire leg leapt off of the exam table each and every time. I wouldn't normally say this, but the pain was so intense with every shock, that if I'd had a gun in my hand..I would've blown my brains out. Ugh.
I left the office after having only 1/4 of the entire 2-part test conducted. Not only was I completely embarrassed, but I also couldn't help but dread being sent BACK there to have the test REDONE. Is there any way that I could be sedated, or "knocked out" for this exam? (FYI: I'd taken two of my Percocet pills an hour before hand/my normal dose) I just don't think I could handle pain like that again. I'm completely exhausted from worrying, and could really use any advice anyone out there could give me. Please help.

 
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Old 02-10-2007, 07:35 AM   #2
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Re: Extremely painful EMG

Hello, welcome to the board. I am so sorry to hear about your painful experience with the emg. I am not sure if they will sedate you for the procedure, maybe you can ask your doc for valium to take before your procedure, but if that is so you will need a driver. I have never heard of anyone being sedated though. I had my emg done in dec. and I agree it is more painful than what they tell you. It is important for you to finish the procedure so they can tell if you have any nerve damage. I wish you the best and you take care. Once again welcome!

Rachel

 
Old 02-10-2007, 07:47 AM   #3
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Re: Extremely painful EMG

It really is torture, but very necessary. I had 2 of them done...one for the lower extremities, and one for the upper extermities. The lower hurt a lot more. Sorry it hurt, but like I said, it's one of those things that you have to grin and bear it.
I don't think they can knock you out due to the requirements of the test itself. I think that you have to be able to move certain parts of your body to help them along with the test. They told me not to take any pain meds before the procedure...just a little something for the anxiety... and MAKE sure you have a driver. Good luck sweetie.
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Old 02-10-2007, 09:18 AM   #4
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Re: Extremely painful EMG

I have experinced the same tests, I was not quite ready for the first part to be quite so suprising as you describe it. I looked the other way when it was time for part 2. The Doc that did mine was a very enteraining guy and we talked guy talk. football, basketball, fishing vacations where we had both been and talked the talk. I think that this helped a great deal. HE had very good bed side manners. Perhaps you can put your self in a happy place so to speak. Try not to focus on the pain, and try to relax as best as you can.

The second part was a walk in the park. I have back problems and perhaps the nuero-surgeon a thing that is called Arnold Charia Malformation. The nuero guy thopught that perhaps I had a like stroke but the test ruled that out and we did an MRI of the brain. There is a life humbling experince when you look at pictures of your own brain. I had another MRI a couple of weeks ago and he told me to quit moving around. I thought that I was perfectly still. I think that it was from the problems with my back.


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I have been there as well.
Roy

 
Old 02-10-2007, 02:40 PM   #5
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Re: Extremely painful EMG

I am surprised that you found the EMG so painful. Yes it did hurt but never to the extreme that you experienced. The femoral nerve testing which is done when upper lumbar levels are being tested is done in the groin and I was warned beforehand that it would be more painful. Sure it hurt and I was glad that it was over but nothing horrendous. I have to wonder about the extent of the pain you experienced. The pain should be very brief much like a painful hitting of your funny bone. I was nervous about having it done and I was very pleasantly surprised at how mild the pain was. I went in expecting something possibly along the lines of a discogram. Well that sure wasn't the case. Wonder what could cause such an extreme painful reaction. Discograms are know for their painfulness if nerve involvment is serious but emg's to my knowledge should not be that painful. Perhaps some of the posters on here have some knowledge on the topic.
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Old 02-10-2007, 03:33 PM   #6
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Re: Extremely painful EMG

I think it all depends on the area most painful to you in the first place, and the technique the doctor is using...along with their skill.

I had a lower EMG, and it was horrible. the first part was a cinch, but the second part was horrible. I had a pain in my femoral area for 2 days. However, the upper EMG was no problem at all. They were done by different doctors as well.

I don't know why it was so different, but it was. One was easy, one was horrible! It's a coin toss. Now, a discogram , on the other hand.....hands down...bad experience.
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Old 02-10-2007, 04:35 PM   #7
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Re: Extremely painful EMG

One radiologist laughed and called the discogram the gold standard for pain. You measure all others against it.
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Old 02-10-2007, 04:46 PM   #8
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Re: Extremely painful EMG

Hi and welcome to the board,

I'm just wondering if maybe your pain being so bad, at that time, was due to emg's testing the "BAD" area of your back. I haven't had this test done, so I really can't say. I've heard that when doing the discogram, when they hit that area, it can be very painful, so maybe that's the way the emg works?

I'm sorry for your pain, and hopefully like the other poster said, the second part was a breeze......I'm hoping that you can get through that one as easy.

Take care and please let us know how your doing,

Bernie

 
Old 02-10-2007, 05:39 PM   #9
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Re: Extremely painful EMG

The discogram uses pain as an indication of which disc is involved in creating pain in the patient. This is why most physicians only use moderate sedation. They have to know how the pain is travelling and how severe it is. For instance a badly herniated disc may not be responsible for any pain while a seemingly healthy disc could be the culprit. This test allows surgeons to be sure that they are in fact operating on the correct disc.

The emg does not use pain as an indicator for diagnosis anymore than an mri or an x-ray.

It is used to indicate whether the "motor" function of the nerve is damaged. For instance it measures minute differences in the speed that the nerve conducts impulses. A injured nerve will show a slower conduction of signal or when the nerve is completely damaged no signal transfer at all.

The sensory part of the nerve is not measured and physicians feel most severe pain is from nerve irritation rather than compression. In this way the emg has some limitations. Hope this helps to explain.
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Old 02-10-2007, 05:48 PM   #10
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Re: Extremely painful EMG

Thanks Pooby, I will copy and print this one for reference.

 
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