Electromyography/Nerve Conduction Studies

Contact Information

EMG/NCS must be ordered for you by a health care provider. Our referral line is (608) 263-9550.


If you must cancel or reschedule your appointment, please provide 24 hours notice.

UW Health pain management in Madison, Wisconsin, offers electromyography/nerve conduction studies (EMG/NCS) to study your nerves and muscles and identify the source of your pain.
What is an EMG/NCS?
An EMG/NCS is an electrical study of your nerves and muscles. If injury to nerves, muscles or spine is suspected, EMG/NCS can help your health care provider determine the cause of your symptoms and choose the best treatment for you. 
On the day of the test, please do not apply lotions or creams to your skin. (These may prevent electrodes or tape from sticking properly.) There is no other special preparation for the test. 
When you arrive, make sure to let the testing doctor know if:
  • You take a “blood thinner” such as warfarin (Coumadin®)
  • You have a pacemaker, automated defibrillator, spinal stimulator or other implanted electronic device
Nerve Conduction Study (NCS)
This part of the procedure studies your nerves. Small electrodes are taped on the appropriate arm or leg. Then, a small electrical current is used to stimulate the nerve. This may be done at different sites along the nerve. The procedure is brief but produces a tingling, slightly uncomfortable sensation. 
Electromyogram (EMG)
This part of the procedure examines the electrical activity of your muscles. An electrode is taped onto your skin. Then, the doctor will insert a thin needle into various muscles, one at a time, in order to record their electrical activity. Each muscle is tested for about one minute.
The EMG can be somewhat uncomfortable because of the small needle pricks. During the test, you will hear a sputtering, crackling sound. This is the electrical activity from your muscles which has been changed into sound waves. You may also be able to watch the electrical activity on a computer display. 
Other Details
The entire test usually takes between 60 and 90 minutes. After the test, we will forward the results to your referring doctor for follow-up care. 
You may feel some tenderness for a day or so around the sites where the needle was inserted. You can briefly apply ice to the tender areas to help reduce this discomfort.