Leon E. Popovitz, MD
Top-Rated Orthopedic Surgeon
Specializing in Arthroscopic Surgery of the Shoulder & Knee.
For appointments 212.759.4553

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Beyond The Medical Room: EMG & E-Technology

Four amazing ways electricity works in your body!

It’s understandable if the thought of an electrical current running through your body is a bit unsettling. However, “electro-technology” is increasingly popular. Why? Versatility. It’s powerful enough to be used in the medical realm but is also safe enough to be implemented into tech innovations for the average Joe.

EMG (Electromyography)

Electro-technology is most commonly known for its application in electromyography. Commonly referred to as an EMG, this test is used to help detect neuromuscular abnormalities and patterns of electrical activity that suggest nerve or muscular diseases like carpal tunnel or Guillain-Barré syndrome. The test is typically done in conjunction with a nerve conduction study (nerve testing), to see how well and how fast nerves can send electrical signals. The results of the exams help physicians make an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan to fit their patients’ needs.

During and EMG, small pins attached to wires transmitting signals to a machine, are placed into the muscles being tested. To complete the nerve testing, small electrodes are taped to the skin on the patient’s hands or feet. While neither test hurts, the patient experiences a mild, brief tingling sensation, similar to a static electricity shock from a metal doorknob. This shock sensation can be a bit uncomfortable, but there are no associated risks with either procedure.

Other Types of “E-Technology”

Taking inspiration from medical applications, innovative minds have been brewing up ways to implement the powerful technology into everyday consumer products – and some of them are really neat! Here are a few favorites:

  • The ‘Smart’ Cast – A cast that does more than collect ‘Get well soon’ messages has finally arrived! In 2011, a Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design graduate developed a smart, futuristic cast, called “Bones,” that tracks muscle activity around fracture sites through EMG sensors. Based on the data collected, physicians can determine how physical therapy and daily activities are affecting the patient’s mobility, which helps them adjust treatments accordingly to increase the rate of healing.
  • The “Human Computer Mouse” – Trade your old school computer mouse in for the Myo Armband, a gesture controlled wearable that uses the electrical activity in the user’s muscles to wirelessly control computers and phones. The armband tracks muscle movement via EMG sensors that pick up on electrical signals pulsating through the user’s forearm muscles (triggered by gestures like pointing, shooting, and snapping) and relays the information to the synced device. Myo works with Windows, Mac OSX, Android, and iOS devices.
  • The Mind Reader – Indecisiveness, be gone! By measuring biometrics such as heartbeat and EMG via an iPhone finger attachment that acts as a blood pressure device, you can now measure your unconscious response to your surroundings and base decisions on hard data. “We want[ed] to …see if we [could] quantify the emotional content of the images [people see],” Mark Collins, Morpholio Co-creator, explained in a video explaining the product. Cool idea, right?

These are only a few of the latest innovations, but the possibilities seem endless. It’s pretty amazing to see what these brilliant minds are able to conjure up.

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