Nerve Conduction Study (NCS) - Definition, Risks, Preparation, During/After Procedure, When To Seek Medical Care

Nerve Conduction Study (NCS) - Definition, Risks, Preparation, During/After Procedure, When To Seek Medical Care

Have you ever experienced pain, numbness, or muscle weakness in any part of your body? Not everyone knows that these signs and symptoms could be due to a nerve injury. In these cases, patients are being referred to a nerve specialist (neurologist) for assessment.

The study of nerve injuries is not as easy as compared to other tests. The location of the damage is not always the same as to where the symptom is prominent. For example, a pain in your upper extremities could be due to a damage to the nerves on your cervical spine. It is at the neck level.

Our nerves are somewhat the same to an electrical wire with a protective covering. The axon, which is responsible for transmitting electrical impulses inside our body is covered with a myelin sheath. If the damaged part is just the covering, then healing should be fast and easy. But if it is the axon itself that is injured, recovery is less certain.

Good thing we now have special tests like nerve conduction studies to help us determine the patterns of a nerve injury. Most of the time, the severity of the condition would correlate with the level of nerve damage shown on these tests.

What is NCS?

Nerve Conduction Studies (NCS) is also known as Nerve Conduction Velocity (NCV). It assesses the speed of conduction of electrical impulses.

During the procedure, the nerve will be stimulated using two electrode patches placed on the surface of the skin. One of the electrodes will stimulate the nerve using a mild impulse and the other one will record it. The electrical activity would then be noted. The procedure is repeated for each nerve being examined.

The velocity or speed of the conduction is measured by checking the distance between the two electrodes and the time it took for the impulse to travel between them.

Sometimes, electromyography (EMG) is also done simultaneously with NCS. This measures electrical activities in the muscles. Both tests will help determine the origin and severity of the damage that affects either the nerves or the muscles, or both.

Risks Involved in NCS

There is nothing to worry about the voltage of the electrical pulses being used in NCS. They are very low and tolerable.

Risks involved in these tests may vary depending on your current medical condition. Make sure to discuss them with your physician.

There could be several factors that may interfere with the exam. The most common would include an injury to the spinal cord, changes in body temperature, and pain before the procedure.

If you have a pacemaker or defibrillator in your chest, special precautions may be required.

How to Prepare for NCS?

  • All questions should be asked before the procedure
  • No fasting or sedation is required
  • Normal body temperature should be maintained as a decrease in its level will slow down conduction
  • List down all the medications and supplements you are taking
  • Wear comfortable clothes that will allow easy access to the areas to be examined
  • Do not use oils or lotions a few days before the test

During the Test

NCS or NCV can be done on an outpatient basis. You may be required to stay in for a night at the hospital depending on your condition.

NCS is facilitated by a neurologist, who is a specialist in the brain and nerve diseases.

The test follows this process:

  1. Removal of any clothing, pieces of jewelry, and other accessories, especially metals, as it may interfere with the test
  2. Wearing a hospital gown
  3. Sitting or lying down comfortably for the procedure
  4. Location of the nerve/s to be examined by a neurologist
  5. Patching of electrodes on your skin. One is for recording.
  6. Stimulation of the nerves using a mild electric impulse. Some patients may feel uncomfortable for a few seconds at this stage.
  7. Recording of responses or electrical activities through a monitor in a form of waves (oscilloscope)

After the Test

  1. Paste used to patch the electrodes will be cleaned up
  2. Patients can return to their daily routine immediately after the test unless you are advised to do otherwise
  3. Additional instructions may be given depending on your condition

When Should You Get Yourself Tested?

NCS or NCV is normally performed together with EMG to differentiate whether the damage is originating from the nerves or the muscles.

Common conditions that can be evaluated through NCS are the following, but not limited to:

1. Guillain-Barre Syndrome

  • Weakness or tingling sensation in the lower extremities. The body’s immune system is recognizing parts of the peripheral nervous system as foreign.

2. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

  • Pain and numbness in the fingers. The median nerve is being tightly pressed by a swollen ligament or tendon.

3. Charcot Marie Tooth Disease

  • Weakness in the muscles of the lower extremities. A neurological disorder that affects both the motor and sensory nerves. This is hereditary. 

4. Herniated Disk Disease

5. Sciatic Nerve Disorders

6. Chronic Inflammatory Polyneuropathy and Neuropathy

7. Pinched Nerves

NCS may also be requested to know the underlying cause of severe pain, numbness, and tingling sensation.

 

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Questions & Answers
Q:
What is the best way to treat permanent back and neck pain and stiffness?
A:

Here are some tips:

Neck Pain Tips: Sleep with a cervical pillow

Orthopedic or cervical pillows are made with special contours to support the space beneath the neck and head. They are also more concave for the head and provide more support to the neck.

Neck Pain Tips: Sleep on your back

The best position to lie to sleep is on your back. If you sleep on your stomach or on your side, make sure your pillow is not too thick. It should raise your head no more than 4 to 6 inches. This will keep your neck and head from turning to either side.

Neck Pain Tips: Position your computer screen at eye level

While you are working at a computer, sit comfortably in your chair with your computer in front of you. Close your eyes and then open them. When you open your eyes, you should see the middle of the computer screen. If your gaze is not in the middle of the screen, adjust the height of the screen using items like books.

To keep your head from gradually drifting forward, take frequent breaks to stretch. Getting up to walk around at least once every half-hour is one of the best neck pain tips.

Neck Pain Tips: Use a telephone headset

Never hold a phone between your shoulder and your ear. Use a headset or other hands-free system to talk on the phone and avoid abusing your neck and spine.

Neck Pain Tips: Exercise your neck muscles

One of the best neck pain tips is using the chin tuck. You can do this often throughout the day. In addition to helping strengthen the muscles that hold the head in alignment over the shoulders, it also helps strengthen the scalene and sub-occipital muscles.

Read more tips here: Neck Pain Tips: Sleeping, Posture, Exercising, Hydration & Prevention

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Temed Holdings
4 answers
Q:
What is the best treatment for neck pain and shoulder Pain?
A:

One of the best treatment for neck pain and shoulder pain is exercises:

Neck Pain Exercises: Neck Extension

  1. To begin this neck pain exercise, sit up straight in a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Looking straight ahead, tuck your chin slightly (starting position)
  3. Place the palm of your hand on the back of your neck, at the base of your head
  4. Apply slight forward pressure with your hand, while resisting the forward motion of your neck and head
  5. Hold for a count of 5 and return to the starting position and relax
  6. Repeat the neck pain exercises 5-10 times

Neck pain exercises: Side bend

  1. Sit up straight in a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Looking straight ahead, tuck your chin slightly (starting position)
  3. Place your left hand, palm down, on the left side of your head (around your ear)
  4. Slightly push your head to the right side with your hand, while resisting the sideways motion of your neck and head
  5. Hold for a count of 5 and return to the starting position and relax.
  6. Repeat 5-10 times
  7. Repeat the neck pain exercises with the other side.

Neck pain exercises: Neck flexion

  1. Sit up straight in a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Looking straight ahead, tuck your chin slightly (starting position)
  3. Place the tips of your fingers on your forehead
  4. Slightly push your head backward with your fingers, while resisting the backward motion of your neck and head
  5. Hold for a count of 5 and return to the starting position and relax.
  6. Repeat the neck pain exercises 5-10 times

More exercises here: Neck Pain Exercises

Read more
Temed Holdings
4 answers
Q:
How do I reduce the shoulder and neck pain?
A:

Here are some tips:

Neck Pain Tips: Sleep with a cervical pillow

Orthopedic or cervical pillows are made with special contours to support the space beneath the neck and head. They are also more concave for the head and provide more support to the neck.

Neck Pain Tips: Sleep on your back

The best position to lie to sleep is on your back. If you sleep on your stomach or on your side, make sure your pillow is not too thick. It should raise your head no more than 4 to 6 inches. This will keep your neck and head from turning to either side.

Neck Pain Tips: Position your computer screen at eye level

While you are working at a computer, sit comfortably in your chair with your computer in front of you. Close your eyes and then open them. When you open your eyes, you should see the middle of the computer screen. If your gaze is not in the middle of the screen, adjust the height of the screen using items like books.

To keep your head from gradually drifting forward, take frequent breaks to stretch. Getting up to walk around at least once every half-hour is one of the best neck pain tips.

Neck Pain Tips: Carry weight evenly

Many people make the mistake of carrying a heavy briefcase or their purse on their shoulder or on one side of their body. Doing this causes strain in the muscles and leads to pain.

Remove non-essentials from your briefcase or purse. Consider using a backpack to evenly distribute the weight across your shoulders. If you choose to carry a purse or backpack, keep your shoulders level while carrying it.

Neck Pain Tips: Maintain a proper posture

The most common posture contributing to neck pain is the “head-and-shoulders-forward” posture. In this position, the neck slopes forward, putting the head in front of the shoulders.

In this position, the head pulls the upper back forward also in a slumped position. This places a strain on the entire spinal column.

More tips here: Neck Pain Tips: Sleeping, Posture, Exercising, Hydration & Prevention

Read more
Temed Holdings
4 answers