Today, I got an EMG, a diagnostic procedure to identify neuromuscular problems. It’s famous (infamous?) for delivering a series of shocks and the insertion of needles. I’m here to report that it’s not that bad! Yes, it’s a series of shocks. Yes, there can potentially be multiple needle insertions. But my experience was not horrid because I held one truth in my head: that we often perceive strange and unfamiliar sensations as pain. If we consciously focus on the sensation, we realize that no, “pain” is not quite an accurate description.


This is what I tell patients who have never seen a chiropractor or have seen a chiropractor but have not experienced a high-velocity, low-amplitude adjustment (in other words, the type of adjustment that can elicit “popping” or “cracking” noises). These types of adjustments, as the classification “high-velocity” suggests, are very quick. The first time your joints move in this manner will be strange and unfamiliar, quite like the electric shocks an EMG delivers. The sensation is over in so little time that one’s brain can hardly process it as anything other that pain. Given time or habituation, we come to realize that indeed, an adjustment cannot be accurately labeled as painful.


In addition to consciously focusing on the sensation and allowing my brain to process the difference between the shocks and pain, I also tolerated the procedure by not looking to closely at the insertion of the needles. Once the needle pricks the skin and enters the muscle, the pain subsides to an achy sensation. However, the movement of the needle in and out of the muscle can be grotesque, so looking elsewhere in the room is calming.


I hope these two suggestions help, if you ever find yourself in need of an EMG.

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