I was born with facial palsy in 1969, they don’t know the cause but assumed it was due to my being a face presentation birth, the nerve was believed to be stretched as I passed through the birth canal. The only other possible explanation is that the nerve simply didn’t grow properly; this would then make it congenital facial palsy because the complication occurred in the womb.
Today I had a Needle EMG to try and find out whether certain nerves are still functioning in my face. I didn’t know what to expect from a Needle EMG, I assumed it was something like acupuncture where they leave with you with pins in your face and press a button to zap you every now and again, but it wasn’t like this at all.
I was told my appointment with the Neuroscience department at the hospital would last approximately 30 minutes, which it did. I was also warned not to use any cream or moisturiser on my arms and legs before I attended, because they want to affix small pads to your skin in either or both of these areas.
One of the other things it mentioned on my letter was to let the hospital know if I have a pacemaker or defibrillator because they need to make special provisions if this is the case. I don’t have either of these things so my appointment was very much routine.
When I arrived for my appointment, we first discussed the kind of areas they would test. They were going to try to find out which nerves are functioning normally and if any are not functioning at all. Some small pads were placed on my arms, like the ones you see on TENS machines only smaller. I was asked to lie down on the couch so I was less likely to jump if the needles felt painful. A very fine needle was placed in my cheek towards the bottom of the side of my nose and I was asked to try and scrunch my nose. The health professional turned up the volume on the equipment which was making a constant low noise, and every time I scrunched my nose you could hear a crackling noise as well, apparently this is the nerve working so that was good news. He then moved the needle to higher up my face against my nose just under the eye, I felt a bit nervous at this point having a needle waving so close to where my unblinking eye was. He then inserted the needle again, this time it felt a little more painful and my eye watered, but it certainly wasn’t unbearable, a lot easier than going to the dentist! He turned the sound up and again there was the constant low noise, this time as I scrunched my nose the crackling noise was only just noticeable. He said this indicated that I had a tiny bit of nerve activity left in this area but not much. I felt this was better than having no nerve activity at all so took this as a positive.
The next areas to be tested were my forehead and mouth area, I didn’t feel much pain in these areas at all and the nerve was working better in the lower part of my face. When the needle was placed in my forehead I was asked to try and squeeze close my eyes, and when the needle was placed in my mouth area I was asked to try and raise my upper lip. It’s when you do these actions that the nerve springs into life and makes a noise, I felt a little like a game of Operation, where I buzzed every time I pulled a face!
Although it can seem daunting having needles put in your face, it’s actually very reassuring to understand exactly what problems you are dealing with, because then you can make decisions about the right treatment and the best way forward.
Please note: Patient experiences reflect the individual views of the patient. While our content is checked for medical accuracy, please remember that every patient’s experience is different.
Last reviewed: 14-11-2016 || Next review due: 14-11-2018