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Health Spotlight: Tool chases nerve pain

(WISH) — A tool is helping doctors and patients dealing with nerve pain.

Locating the source of nerve pain can be like chasing a ghost because nerve signals from the pain source frequently transmit the wrong location to the brain.

Now, doctors are finding a way to narrow down and diagnose nerve pain’s origin, giving new hope to patients.

It’s estimated from 15 million to 20 million Americans suffer from nerve pain.

Robin Martinoli, who is retired from the Pentagon, took up quilting, but painful carpal tunnel syndrome changed her plans. “I will never get my feeling back in these two fingers. If I go to pick up needles when I quilt, and I’d l think I’ve got one. I’ve got three or four of them.”

For Martinoli, carpal tunnel caused by compression of the nerves in her hand and wrist produces constant, nagging pain.

Dr. Nicholas Anastasio of Mercy Medical Center in Maryland said, “Until you relieve the nerve compression, it’s, generally not gonna go away. So, the key to a good nerve test is figuring out where the source of your nerve generation is so that we can address the root of the problem.”

A tool called electromyography, or EMG, can help solve that problem. When nerve conduction and EMG are performed together, skin electrodes measure signals sent along the nerve. Then, a very small EMG needle records electrical activity in the muscle; the slower the signal, the greater the risk of damage.

EMG can also distinguish between compressive nerve injuries, including carpal tunnel, and more serious neuromuscular diseases such as muscular dystrophy.

Patients are advised to wait 21 days post nerve injury to have the nerve signal speeds measured.

The doctor said, “We did the nerve conduction test and confirmed that she had carpal tunnel on both sides. She hadn’t completely ruined the nerve over 30 or 40 years. It still was alive and intact. That allowed us the ability to justify carpal tunnel release which takes the pressure off the nerve and relieves the symptoms.”

Martinoli said, “The recovery time was really quick and easy.”

She’s back doing what she loves.

This story was created from a script aired on WISH-TV. Health Spotlight is presented by Community Health Network.