Today, I had an EMG test in my neurologist’s office. Goal? Figure out what the eff is wrong with my right arm. It was the most un-fun visit I’ve had with Dr. K. Things started out innocently enough … the nice chatty lab tech hooked up some electrodes along my arm, touched my arm in several places with what looked like the end of the power cord for a washing machine, producing a slightly uncomfortable but decidedly purposeful twitch in various parts of my person (confined, mostly any way, to the general vicinity of my arm). StarMan came along, for entertainment purposes. He said that the scene reminded him of this:
The idea of the EMG test is to electrically stimulate/activate the nerves, which causes the targeted muscle to contract. An oscilloscope then measures the electrical signal “response” produced by the muscle as it relaxes back to its pre-probe state. At least, that’s my kindergarten understanding of this test. Anyway, the general idea is that one’s muscle/nerves serves the purpose of the “wire” in this mad scientist circuit board experiment. After probing several parts of my arm, Nice Lab Tech says he’s finished. I’m thinking “wow, that wasn’t bad!” I thought too soon …
… because at that moment, Dr K. enters the room, wielding a very long needle hooked up to a wire. It looks like a medieval torture weapon. She jokes about now possessing the ability to extract “top secret information” from me, should she be compelled to do so! This needle goes down into the muscle, at several points along my arm. And then she starts rooting around with it stuck in there — looking for the nerve, to strike oil, who knows?! ouch! When she gets to the fleshy base of my thumb, she warns that this one will hurt most. It didn’t hurt *that* much more than the other pokes, and I make the mistake of telling her so. She laughs with an evil grin, and declares that she’ll just have to use higher voltage on the other hand!
This procedure was not the worst medical test that could happen to someone (I’m guessing a lumbar puncture could be worse, for example), but it was most decidedly not pleasant. I was bleeding out of many of the punctures along my arm, and my poor right arm was aching even more than usual, after the ordeal was over. Dr. K. did give me a quick run-down of test results, with more details to follow in my upcoming appointment with her. The lumbar and thoracic MRI were normal, and the EMG was in normal range with some indication of very slight carpal tunnel.
I’m glad we proceeded with these tests, just to make sure that nothing truly sinister was responsible for my right hand aches and weakness, but I hope to never again be used as an electrical conducting material!