IMS, Dry Needling Physiotherapy

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Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS), sometimes referred to as dry needling, is an ideal treatment for chronic pain of neuropathic origin. Neuropathic pain occurs when nerves malfunction after an accident such as whiplash from a car accident, a back injury or repetitive strain in your elbow

When your nerves get irritated, they can become very sensitive and painful. This can cause your muscles to tighten and shorten. With this muscle tightness comes changes in your blood flow which then turns normal sensory inputs into painful ones

Can IMS Or Dry Needling Help Me?

IMS works best when you have pain that is neuropathic instead of pain that is from a structural problem. So how do you know what kind of pain you have and what is causing it? It can be difficult to know on your own whether dry needling treatment will help you

The way to tell is through an examination with your IMS physiotherapist. During your exam, your physio will be able to determine what the cause of your pain is and whether dry needling therapy can help you. Other investigations such as xrays, MRI or CT are usually not needed during your exam process

ims dry needling near me

What To Expect On Your First IMS Visit

Physiotherapy and IMS treatment uses needles to penetrate deep within your muscle tissue. The needles are used to specifically target your injured muscles that have contracted and shortened because of an unhealthy nervous system.

The needle sites can be in your arms or legs in the middle of a tight and tender muscle band. They can also be found in the muscles along your spine.

Usually, when the needle is inserted into a normal muscle there is no pain. However, if you have a shortened, tight muscle that has become extra sensitive, the muscle can sometimes “grab” onto the needle. When this happens, you might notice a cramping sensation in the muscle.

What Is The Difference Between IMS And Acupuncture?

On the surface, both IMS or dry needling and acupuncture seem the same. They both involve using needles in the treatment of patients with often chronic pain, meaning pain lasting for longer than 3 months.


The difference lays in the philosophy behind each technique. Acupuncture has roots in Eastern or oriental medicine. In a typical acupuncture session, needles would be inserted into your skin. They are then left there for a few minutes, for example 15 to 20 minutes. The theory is that acupuncture works with your body’s life force or meridians. The goal is to ensure your life energy is flowing through these meridians and any stoppages are unblocked with acupuncture. Another goal is to keep balance between your various meridians.

IMS or dry needling

IMS is a technique based on Western medicine. Needles are inserted directly into your muscles. With dry needling or IMS, the needles are usually left in place for a shorter time than acupuncture. The goal of IMS is to reduce muscle tension and desensitize nerves.

Many physiotherapists use IMS or dry needling in treating patients. IMS is considered part of your physiotherapy treatment

Your IMS, Dry Needling Team

ims for nerve pain

Marcela Vilela

dry needling for nerve pain

May Sheu

IMS Needle Insertion, The “Grab”

When your muscle “grabs” onto the needle, a few things may happen:

1 The first is that the stretch receptor in your muscle gets stimulated. This causes your muscle to then relax and lengthen
2 Next, a small injury to your muscle from the needle leads to blood being drawn into the area. This now starts your healing process
3 Finally, an electrical potential is created in your muscle which helps return your nerve back to normal function again

How Does IMS Physiotherapy Help Me

The purpose of IMS treatment is to relax muscle tension and release a muscle that has become shortened. When your muscle shortens, this leads to pressure and irritation on your nerve.

Muscles that were previously over sensitized can now be desensitized. Once this happens, it will help you stop your muscle from shortening. IMS is a useful tool to release muscles that have shortened and are under contracture. This can lead to the pain that you were feeling before.

This is how IMS addresses the underlying neuropathic aspect of your pain. It is an effective way to reduce your pain and correct any dysfunction you are having. Some conditions which have been treated include:

  • Ankle pain
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Disc injury
  • Frozen shoulder
  • Golfer’s elbow
  • Hip injuries
  • Knee pain
  • Low back pain
  • Neuropathic pain
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Sciatica
  • Shin splints
  • Sports injury
  • Tennis elbow
  • TMJ pain
  • Whiplash
  • Other chronic or recurrent pains
hand weights for physio exercise rehab

Patient Review

IMS dry needling physio treatment Cecilia

With just my first IMS-dry needling physiotherapy treatment, my nearly two month-long pain went away

Posted on Google

Frequently Asked Questions About IMS And Dry Needling

What is dry needling most effective for?

If you are having trouble with issues such as chronic nerve pain or tendonitis, IMS or dry needling may be a treatment option for you. Dry needling can be a useful tool your physiotherapist uses to help calm down irritated nerves and relax your tense muscles

Does IMS treatment hurt?

During your IMS treatment, you may feel a deep ache. Sometimes, your muscles may twitch as the needle is inserted. Most IMS treatment only causes mild discomfort. Some areas of the body may be more sensitive to IMS treatment, such as the bottoms of your feet

Who can I see to have IMS done?

Many health care practitioners who work with needles can provide IMS or dry needling treatment. Most often, it is your physiotherapist who provides IMS treatment after becoming certified in the technique. Other professionals can include your medical doctor or family physician.

Is IMS or dry needling treatment covered by my insurance?

It depends on who is doing the treatment. If it is your physiotherapist doing the IMS treatment, then it is part of your physiotherapy treatment. Most health insurance policies provide coverage for physiotherapy care.

If your injuries are the result of being involved in either a motor vehicle collision or a workplace related incident, then your physiotherapy sessions with IMS may be covered by ICBC or WorkSafeBC

How many sessions of dry needling do you need?

Your progress depends a lot on the type of injury you have, your health and what caused your pain. The longer that you have been dealing with a health issue, generally the longer and more sessions are required to relive your pain. Someone who is in good physical and mental health will likely respond faster and better than someone with poor mental and physical health.

Some patients receiving IMS treatment report feeling noticeable improvements after their first session. More commonly, you may need 3-4 visits with dry needling to start to feel some relief of your symptoms.

Get Started With IMS Treatment In Burnaby

Cedar Chiropractic & Physiotherapy is your source for IMS physiotherapy in Burnaby. If you are looking for IMS or dry needling treatment, your team is ready to develop a treatment plan for you to get you the care you need

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Click To Phone 604-738-1168