IMS (Intramuscular Stimulation)
IMS is a needling technique that treats pain of a
neuropathic origin – when the nerves stop communicating properly with the
surrounding muscle or tissue following injury. The nerve becomes hypersensitive,
circulation to the area is reduced, and muscle shortens and contracts. Fine needles
(typically acupuncture needles) are inserted into the contracted muscle, initiating
a reflex that in turn relaxes the muscle. The tiny injury caused by the needle also
tells the body to kick off the healing process to the area, and restores the normal
communicating function of the nerve.
IMS uses an in depth assessment which looks for the signs of neuropathic pain.
This includes sensory changes (e.g. tenderness to the area), autonomic changes
(e.g. goosebumps, perspiration, excess fluid), trophic changes (e.g. hair loss), and
muscle/motor changes (e.g. pain from pulling on joints and tendons).
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Acupuncture vs. IMS
TCM acupuncture uses specifically patterned meridians, or energy pathways
throughout the body to help promote natural healing and reduce pain. Typically
physiotherapists use acupuncture as a modality and adjunct to other treatment
techniques and are not trained in all aspects of TCM acupuncture. The use of
needles follows the specific meridians, as opposed to IMS, which uses physical signs.
While it’s true that IMS can be a more uncomfortable practice than acupuncture,
IMS is designed to stimulate and trigger a reaction in a contracted muscle. For
clients who have experienced chronic pain or limited relief using conventional
physiotherapy methods of treatment, the deep aching, or “twitching” experienced
can be welcome as this can produce more instant relief and results not experienced
IMS can be used to treat a wide variety of conditions. Your physiotherapist will be
able to determine if IMS is an appropriate treatment technique for you.