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Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS)

Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS) also known as Dry Needling is a total system for the diagnosis and treatment of myofascial pain syndromes (chronic pain conditions of the musculoskeletal system). This technique involves the use of acupuncture needles that penetrate the trigger points within the muscles without injecting any substance and facilitates their release.

By releasing the tight bands/trigger points within the muscles IMS has been postulated to help:

•alleviate pain and tightness within the muscles themselves •alleviate pain in the tendons and attachments to the bones (e.g. tendonitis) and increase range of motion of a joint •relieve pressure on nerves, nerve roots and intervertebral discs (e.g. disc bulges) by lengthening shortened paraspinals muscles surrounding the spine •delay the onset and progression of degenerative changes within a joint and the spine EndFragment



What is IMS Gunn IMS (intramuscular stimulation) is a physiotherapy system of diagnosis and treatment of soft-tissue pain. Developed in the 70’s in British Columbia, by Dr. Chan Gunn, this treatment is one of the most effective for neuropathic and myofascial pain.

Who will benefit from IMS? Neuropathic disorders that benefit from IMS treatment include TMJ, arthritis, neck/back pain, fibromyalgia, tennis elbow, bursitis, scoliosis, headaches, whiplash, and more. Anyone with a stubborn knot that massage is unable to release can benefit from IMS. Often the effects are described as a 1 hour massage on a specific knot taking effect instantly as it releases the muscle's strain.

What can I expect to feel during and after this IMS program? Dry needling does involve some discomfort, but the sterile IMS needles used are very thin for added comfort. In tight muscle knots you may feel twitching as the muscle is released. Following any given treatment you may feel increased soreness for 1-3 days. After this you will likely feel improved.

How long does an IMS treatment last? The first appointment takes about 1 hour for the initial assessment. After that, the number and length of treatment sessions depend on your condition. The number of treatments required depends on several factors: your general health, the duration and extent of your condition, how much scar tissue there is, and how quickly your body can heal. The rate of healing also depends on the condition of your nerves; young people usually heal quicker, but older is not necessarily slower. If the pain is of recent origin, one treatment may be all that is necessary. In published study of patients with low back pain, the average number of treatments required was 8.

How long will the benefits IMS last? The effects of IMS are cumulative. Each needle injury stimulates a certain amount of healing until, eventually, the condition is healed, and the pain disappears. Blood also brings a healing factor known as the Platelet Derived Growth Factor to injured tissues. IMS is like pruning a plant: you produce small injuries to stimulate new growth to replace injured tissues, but once healing has occurred, you are back to where you were before the pain occurred.

I’ve had acupuncture before. How will this be different? Acupuncture treatments typically leave the needles in for several minutes to an hour. IMS treatments involve inserting and withdrawing the needles immediately. Because of this technique, it is often possible to get more points treated in a typical IMS treatment compared to acupuncture. In general (but not always), acupuncture points are quite shallow and many are just under the skin or into the most superficial layer of muscle. IMS needling finds trigger points deep within the muscles to release tone. Traditional acupuncture is an ancient philosophy, and is diagnosed and applied by Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners. Gunn IMS relies on modern western medicine’s understanding of anatomy & neurology. It uses this information for the diagnosis and treatment of persistent and chronic pain conditions.

Read this article about the difference between IMS and Acupuncture.

How does Gunn IMS differ from other dry needing practices? Most other dry needling practices focus on treating only the specific area of pain. The Gunn IMS technique assesses and treats the whole body. For example, for arm or leg pain, Gunn IMS will treat both locally where the pain is felt, and also assess & treat the sources of the pain. These are often found in the neck and/or back.

Is this part of a Physiotherapy Treatment or is it billed separately? IMS is a skill and certification for Physiotherapists as part of a Physiotherapy treatment and billed as such. Your Physiotherapist can determine if IMS is right for you in a proper assessment just as any of the other skills in the Physiotherapist arsenal and may be used in conjunction with other treatment techniques.


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