A type of electromyographic activity, formerly referred to as "pseudomyotonia", can be recorded from the striated muscle of the urethral sphincter using a concentric needle electrode. There are two components to this activity, complex repetitive discharges and decelerating bursts. The latter usually dominate recordings and sound very like myotonic discharges. Analysis of these discharges indicates that they are a form of "bizarre repetitive discharge", and as such, result from ephaptic spread of excitation between muscle fibres rather than from excitation arising in the terminal branches of the motor axon. Profuse activity of this type has been found in 15 women with symptoms of urethral dysfunction, including 11 with urinary retention. It is suggested that this activity is associated with a failure of urethral sphincter relaxation.