Zap, tingle, twitch – it’s just an EMG

Nov 7 • Bruce Uncorked, Feature StoryNo Comments on Zap, tingle, twitch – it’s just an EMG

I’ve got a little advice for you, something learned from recent experience: If hospital staff advise you to be at the hospital at a certain time, do it.

Last week, I had to see Dr. John Clifford, a physical medicine and rehabilitation doc at the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance. I’ll go into why in a moment.

So, I received a call from the CKHA Monday saying they had a couple of cancellations and asked if I wanted a 10 a.m. appointment Tuesday. I said sure.

They advised me to be at admitting at 9:30 a.m.

The next morning, as I have a lot of little things to do every Tuesday morning at the office, I tried to cram as much as I could into my window before I left.

So instead of being at admitting by 9:30 a.m., I left the office at that time. I arrived at the Chatham campus not even 10 minutes later, having 20 minutes to spare before my appointment. No problem, right? I’ve been to a number of tests at the hospital in the past and that experience had me thinking I had plenty of time.

The trouble is, I don’t think I’ve ever had a morning appointment there.

The first problem arose when I went to park in the main lot by the front entrance. It was full and there were a couple of cars lined up to enter when people eventually left.

I spun around and headed along the front of the hospital, only to see no metered parking available. The same was true along Louise Street to the southwest of the hospital.

I pulled into ambulatory care parking, only to find the spot I discovered as too tight a fit for my truck. It was beside some low fence pillars that I couldn’t see as I tried to squeeze in there.

Finally, I found the lone other available spot in the lot, also along that fencing, but I managed to have enough room to get out of the truck.

I limped through the hospital (my back’s still sore and my hip is still talking to me, plus I didn’t want to take any pain meds due to my tests) and made it to admitting at 9:46 a.m. Still 14 minutes to go. No problem!

I took my number, 32, and looked up. “Now serving No. 18.”


Nothing I could do but sit and wait. It was out of my hands.

Except, if I had arrived at the recommended time, I would have been on time for my appointment.

As it was, I walked into the physiotherapy/rehabilitation department at the CKHA at 10:11 and was greeted warmly.

Thirty minutes later, I started undergoing tests.

I was at the hospital because for several months, my right shoulder would periodically “buzz.” It would happen as I drove, and most annoyingly as I tried to fall asleep in my recliner.

As many know, I spend about half the night snoozing in my recliner because of my back and hip discomfort, and the other half horizontal in bed.

But since late summer, as I nodded off in the chair, my shoulder’s irritation would snap me awake.

I don’t know if the irritation was from time spent in front of a computer at work, time spent playing video games (hey, I hurt my left wrist once with a stupid video game due to the repetition of thumb movements for one element of the game), or if it was just the way I slept in the recliner.

Maybe it was all of the above.

I finally took to putting a pillow under my right elbow, propping it up a bit and taking any gravitational pressure off my shoulder.

It seemed to really help.

So I explain everything to the lovely woman who performed an EMG (electromyography) test on me, testing both arms from the elbows on down by applying varying strengths of electrical currents. She measured distances along my forearms, along my hands and fingers, and connected three electrodes to my hand at various points.

Then she took out the “shocker,” a two-pronged device that she used to literally shock me at numerous points along my wrists and elbows. With the spin of a dial on the device, she could deftly change the current level until she obtained the desired twitch in my hand.

It didn’t hurt, and I was curious more than anything, but some people might find it uncomfortable. Having experienced a TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) machine courtesy of my chiropractor, Dr. Steve, I’m quite familiar with the feeling of current running into my body.

But the EMG sends the current straight to various nerves, causing spastic reactions in the thumb, hand and fingers. It is weird seeing your hand twitch when your elbow is zapped, but, again, it wasn’t painful.

The tests were over in no time, and according to the technician and Dr. Clifford, they showed no problems.

The doc then ran me through some motor and strength tests for my arms and hands. He was perplexed as nothing indicated any problems.

As I type this, I have a very slight buzzing right in the back of my shoulder socket, but it is not as bad as it was.

Whatever I’ve been doing, the doc advised me to keep doing it, as the issue seems to be clearing up – to the point they can’t even find it.

I’ve asked Mary not to give me “that look” when I ask her to pass me a pillow to put under my arm, as it seems to be helping. I’m sure I’ll still get “that look,” however, as I do enough odd things that leave her wondering what is going on in my head.




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