Tests and diagnosisBy Mayo Clinic staff
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and conduct a physical examination.
If your doctor suspects a pinched nerve, you may undergo some tests. These tests are often completed at the same time and take about one hour:
- Nerve conduction study. Patch-style electrodes are placed on your skin to stimulate the nerve with a mild electrical impulse. You'll feel a sensation like an electric shock, which may be uncomfortable. Test results tell your doctor whether you have a damaged nerve. This test may also be called a nerve conduction velocity test.
- Electromyography. This test measures the electrical discharges produced in muscles. During the test, a thin needle electrode is placed into the muscle to record electrical activity. You will be asked to rest and contract the muscle, such as by bending your arm. You may feel pain when the needle is inserted, and your muscle may be sore for a few days after the test. Test results tell your doctor if there's damage to the nerves leading to the muscle.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). MRI, a technique that uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create cross-sectional images of your body, may be used if your doctor suspects you have nerve root compression.
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