Needles and electricity go together like…

January 18, 2012

Health, Shout-Outs

So this morning I had a NCT (nerve conduction test) and an EMG (electromyogram).  I would give you a link to these on Wikipedia, but there’s a blackout going on dontchaknow.  You’ll have to look them up yourself tomorrow if you’re really curious.

This is in re: my frozen shoulder.  At my last appointment the doc was worried that there might be nerve damage or impingement somewhere.  Thus, these tests.

The NCT is non-invasive, as long as you don’t consider being shocked electrically “invasive”.  And really, it was just a few places on my arm, and it really wasn’t that bad.  If anything I really wasn’t paying attention to the shocks (which measure how long it takes an electrical current to get from one part of your anatomy to another along a nerve pathway) because this is a test I’ve never had before.  And I’ve had a fair number of tests… at least, almost all modalities of medical imaging anyway.  And as I work with medical imaging software, I have a bit of professional curiosity.  Thus, as long as a test I’m being subjected to isn’t seriously painful, I get off on it intellectually.  Seriously… what we can discover (and sometimes what we can’t, check out The Robot Mommy some time for interesting stories of tests, and lots of other funnier stuff) these days with various tests is nothing short of miraculous.

The EMG, another test I’ve never had, does a very similar thing, though instead of the amount of time it takes for nerves to conduct electricity it measures the amount of electrical activity in a particular muscle both at rest and when working.  To do this, they stick a needle into your muscles, and check out what happens on an oscilloscope (well, a specialized version thereof) which helpfully turns the electrical signals into audio so that as a patient you can hear what your muscles are up to.

Again, this is just pretty darn awesome.  It’s not comfortable by any stretch, but it’s no worse (and depending on where it’s being done a bit better) than getting stuck for a flu shot or a blood draw.  To be honest, the only seriously discomfiting part was when, in a couple of places, my skin was thicker or something and it was tough for the doc to get the needle in.  I could feel the pressure on my skin, but the needle just couldn’t get through.  Then with a little more careful persistence (this doc was really on her game) there was practically an audible “pop” as the needle got through finally.  But even that failed to really bother me after the third or so time that it happened.

And the really great news is that not only were the tests less painful than I had thought they might be, it’s that they also show that my nerves and muscle innervation are just fine, thankyouverymuch.  YAY!  One less thing to worry about.

The other good thing?  I’ve been scheduled for the x-ray/steriod injection/nerve block/forced mobilization finally!  It’s happening this Monday and I’m seriously impatient.  But at least I know now when it’s coming, even if I don’t really know what to expect.

I *do* know that I won’t be going under a general anesthetic.  Apparently the forced mobilization will happen with the aid of local anesthetics and nerve blocks.  I’m happy I’m not going under.  At the same time, this will be a serious exercise for me in remaining calm during the procedure.  There will be audible cracking as the mobilization breaks up the scar tissue that’s built up in my joint capsule.  That does NOT sound fun.  But hey – if it makes my shoulder usable again, I’ll take bad sounds, and I won’t complain.  Not a peep!

(at least about that)

Wish me luck!


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3 Comments on “Needles and electricity go together like…”

  1. blogginglily Says:

    This gives me the willies.


  2. Rachel Cotterill Says:

    I’m glad the tests showed that everything was normal in that regard. Although I’m always a bit ambivalent when I have a medical test; I want it to be normal, but I also want to know what’s causing the problem, so sometimes finding a specific problem can be a relief! Good luck with the next procedure.


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