How does one prepare the skin prior to recording with Delsys EMG sensors?

Quality EMG signals can only be obtained with proper application of the sensors. EMG signals originate from the movement of very small charged ions in the muscle cell membranes. The skin barrier poses an impediment to the detection of these electric fields from its surface. The impact of the skin in attenuating and possibly distorting these signals can be minimized by ensuring that it is free from extraneous matter which can include hair, oils and dry dermis.
  1. Remove excessive hair that may occlude a muscle site.
  2. A brisk wipe using an alcohol swab is effective in removing surface oils and other contaminants. The use of excessive amounts of alcohol will be detrimental as this will cause the skin to dry.
  3. If dry skin cells are causing difficulties, these can be easily dislodged by dabbing the surface with medical grade tape. Dry skin cells will adhere to the tape and be dislodged when the tape is removed. Ensure that no adhesive residue remains on the skin by wiping the areas with an alcohol swab.
  4. In cases when skin surface is persistently dry, a very small amount of ionic soap or saline solution can be used to line the EMG sensor contacts. This solution will add electrolytes to the sensor-skin interface, facilitating the necessary ionic exchanges that must occur. Excessive amounts of ionic soap will be detrimental as this could short out the sensor inputs or interfere with the adhesive features of the sensor interfaces. Liquinox (R) brand name soap is an example of an ionic surfactant that can be used for this purpose. This hospital grade detergent should be diluted with a ratio of 50 to 1.
  5. Proper sensor application requires the use of the Delsys Sensor Interface which is specifically designed to promote strong skin adhesion, to minimize movement artifacts, and to manage the build-up of surface sweat over the coarse of long-duration and/or vigorous activities. Using sensor attachments or approaches other than this one will most likely result in decreased signal quality.