Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS)
Intramuscular Simulation (IMS), also known as dry needling, is an ideal treatment for chronic pain of neuropathic origin. Neuropathic pain occurs when nerves malfunction following a trauma such as whiplash, back injury, or repetitive strain. These irritated nerves become extremely sensitive and cause muscle tightness and shortening, changes in blood flow, and turn normal sensory inputs into painful ones.
IMS was developed by Dr. Chan Gunn while he was a physician at the Worker’s Compensation Board of British Columbia in the 70’s, where he investigated the large number of mysteriously stubborn cases after frustration with the ineffective modalities at his disposal. He subsequently developed this neuropathic model, based on scientific research, to explain his observations.
IMS relies heavily on a thorough physical examination of the patient by a competent practitioner, trained to recognize the physical signs of neuropathic pain. This physical examination is indispensable since chronic pain is often neurological as opposed to structural, and therefore, invisible to expensive X-rays, MRI Tests, Bone and CT Scans. Failure to recognize these signs will result in an inaccurate diagnosis, and thus, a poor starting point for physical therapy.
IMS treatment utilizes acupuncture needles to penetrate deep within muscle tissue and specifically targets injured muscles that have contracted and shortened from an unhealthy nervous system. The needle sites can be in the extremities at the epicenter of taut, tender muscle bands, or they can be near the spine. 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 and lengthening of the muscle. 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 to make the nerve function normally again.
The goal of IMS at our Burnaby physiotherapy clinic is to release muscle shortening, which presses on and irritates the nerve. Supersensitive areas can be desensitized, and the persistent pull of shortened muscles can be released. IMS is very effective for releasing shortened muscles under contracture, thereby causing mechanical pain from muscle pull. IMS, in effect, treats the underlying neuropathic condition that causes the pain. IMS has a remarkable success rate at decreasing pain and dysfunction associated with many chronic conditions such as low back pain, whiplash, tennis elbow, TMJ pain, hip/knee/ankle pain, and other chronic/recurrent pain