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Muscle Electromyogram Test (EMG)



  • An electromyogram is a procedure that checks how your child’s muscles respond to messages sent by the nerves. It is used to help diagnose nerve or muscle problems.
  • Ask your provider how long it will take to recover and how to take care of your child at home.
  • Make sure you know what symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if your child has them.


What is an electromyogram?

An electromyogram, or EMG, is a test that checks how your child’s muscles respond to messages sent by the nerves. The test measures the activity of your child’s muscles in response to small amounts of electricity passed through a needle to the muscles.

When is it used?

An electromyogram can help diagnose problems such as:

  • Nerve damage or injury caused by a compressed disk in your child’s neck or back
  • Nerve problems in the hand from carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Muscle or movement problems such as muscle twitching that your child cannot control
  • Nerve problems caused by conditions such as diabetes, pernicious anemia, and heavy metal poisoning
  • Muscle weakness from nerve disorders or diseases such as muscular dystrophy or another genetic condition

How do I prepare my child for this procedure?

  • Your child may or may not need to take his or her regular medicines the day of the procedure. Tell the healthcare provider about all the medicines and supplements your child takes. Some products may increase your child’s risk of side effects. Ask the healthcare provider if your child needs to avoid taking any medicine or supplements before the procedure.
  • Tell your child’s provider if your child has a blood clotting problem or takes blood thinning medicines.
  • Tell your provider if your child has any food, medicine, or other allergies such as latex.
  • Ask if there is anything your child should avoid before the test such as any food or drink containing caffeine.
  • On the day of the test, instruct your child to take a bath or shower, or give your child a bath or shower to remove oil from the skin. Don’t put any lotions or creams on your child’s skin before the test.
  • Follow any instructions your child’s healthcare provider may give you.
  • Ask any questions you have before the procedure. You should understand what the healthcare provider is going to do. You have the right to make decisions about your child’s healthcare and to give permission for any tests or procedures.

What happens during the procedure?

An EMG can be done at a hospital or in a testing center. Your child may be given a sedative to help relax. The healthcare provider will insert several small needles attached to wires through your child’s skin into the muscles where your child is having symptoms. The wires record the electrical activity of the muscles. Your child’s muscles may be tested when they are resting, when contracting gently, and when contracting forcefully. The test can be slightly painful when the electricity passes through the wires to the muscles.

The test takes 30 to 60 minutes, depending on how many of your child’s muscles are being tested.

What happens after the procedure?

Your child’s muscles may feel tender or look bruised for a few days after the test.

Ask your healthcare provider:

  • How and when you will get your child’s test results
  • How long it will take to recover
  • If there are activities your child should avoid and when your child can return to normal activities
  • How to take care of your child at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if your child has them

Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.

Developed by Change Healthcare.
Pediatric Advisor 2022.1 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2022-01-03
Last reviewed: 2019-06-11
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2022 Change Healthcare LLC and/or one of its subsidiaries
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