IMS - Intra Muscular Stimulation

I am a certified GunnIMS practitioner.

What is IMS?

IMS is an excellent way to treat chronic pain that has not responded to conventional treatment. Intramuscular stimulation (also called dry needling) is a needling technique used by physiotherapists to diagnose and treat muscle pain. IMS uses very fine needles similar to acupuncture needles. It is a great way to release muscle tension.

Who is IMS for?

Intramuscular stimulation is great to release muscle tightness, but it is also effective for other conditions. It is also for any individual who reports ongoing pain of greater than 6 weeks with little or no accompanying trauma or inflammatory process.  It is especially great for athletes who have muscle tension or tightness in their muscles from being very active.

How does IMS work?

As the name implies the needles are inserted directly into the muscle tissue, which then elicits are relaxation response. In some cases IMS works by releasing muscle shortening which presses on and irritates the nerve. The persistent pull of the shortened muscle is released and the body can begin the healing process.

What can it treat?

  • Chronic 'whiplash' pain
  • Repetitive strain syndrom
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Myofacial trigger points
  • Patello-femoral syndrom
  • Spinal pain
  • Headaches
  • Jaw pain
  • Shin splints
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Tennis elbow / golfer's elbow
  • Trigger finger
  • Iliotibial band syndrom
  • Piriformis syndrom
  • Achiles tendonitis

What if I don't like needles?

If you are not comfortable with needles, please tell me. I will go gentler with the needling to see how you react. IMS is definitely a unique experience, if you've never had it done on you before. I wouldn't want to scare anyone away from it, by being too aggressive with it right off the bat. It is an effective treatment strategy for some condition, and I'm happy to work withing your comfort levels.

Physiotherapy - IMS - Intramuscular stimulation

What 's the difference between IMS and Accupuncture?

IMS is not acupuncture, although it uses similar needles. Acupuncture is based on Traditional Chinese Medicine, while IMS is based on evidence based medicine. With acupuncture needles are inserted into specific points along defined energy meridians, and with IMS the needles are inserted at the source of the pain.

What's shortened muscle syndrome?

An important factor in neuropathic pain is  muscle shortening, caused by muscle spasm and contractor. Muscle shortening produces pain by pulling on tendons, straining them as well as distressing the joints they move. Muscle shortening also increases wear and tear and contributes to degenerative changes such as tendonitis and osteoarthritis.

What's neuropathic pain?

Neuropathic pain occurs when nerves become overly sensitive to stimulation following a minor irritation. Nerves become extremely sensitive which results in harmless signals being  perceived as pain.  In a protective response to the perceived ‘painful’ stimulus, muscles contract and over time actually shorten causing increased stress on local ligaments, tendons and joints as well as decreased blood flow to the muscle. These effects increase the pain in the local area creating a complete ever increasing pain cycle.

What to expect

The treatment involves dry needling of affected areas of the body without injecting any substance. The needle sites can be at the epicenter of taut, tender muscle bands, or they can be near the spine where the nerve root may have become irritated and supersensitive. Penetration of a normal muscle is painless; however, a shortened, supersensitive muscle will ‘grasp’ the needle in what can be described as a cramping sensation. The result is threefold. One, a stretch receptor in the muscle is stimulated, producing a reflex relaxation (lengthening). Two, the needle also causes a small injury that draws blood to the area, initiating the natural healing process. Three, the treatment creates an electrical potential in the muscle which encourages normal nerve function. If this approach is to be successful, improvement should be noted within 2-3 sessions.

How many treatments are needed?

The number of treatments required depends on, individual rate of healing, how long the condition has been present, how much local scar tissue is present, age of the individual, etc. If the pain is of recent, often only one treatment is enough. If the condition has been present for an extended period of time it may take 8 to 10 treatments to complete the treatment. Treatments are generally provided either once or twice per week in order to give the body an opportunity to heal and accommodate to the local changes in nerve and muscle function. Treatments are 30 to 45 minutes long.