Choosing Wisely:

Don’t use electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction studies (NCS) to determine the cause of axial lumbar, thoracic or cervical spine pain.

Rationale and Comments: Electromyography and nerve conduction studies are measures of nerve and muscle function. They may be indicated when there is concern for a neurologic injury or disorder, such as the presence of leg or arm pain, numbness or weakness associated with compression of a spinal nerve. As spinal nerve injury is not a cause of neck, mid back, or low back pain, EMG/NCS have not been found to be helpful in diagnosing the underlying causes of axial lumbar, thoracic, and cervical spine pain.
Sponsoring Organizations:
  • North American Spine Society
  • Sources:
  • Expert consensus
  • Disciplines:
  • Neurologic
  • Orthopedic
  • References: • Sandoval AE. Electrodiagnostics for low back pain. Phys Med Rehabil Clin N Am. 2010 Nov;21(4):767-76.
    • NASS Evidence-Based Guideline: North American Spine Society (NASS). Diagnosis and treatment of degenerative lumbar spinal stenosis. Burr Ridge (IL): North American Spine Society (NASS); 2011. 104 p.

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