Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS) is an advanced and highly effective physiotherapy treatment that focuses on relieving chronic pain and muscle tightness.

What is IMS and Dry Needling?

IMS, also called Dry Needling, is a total system for the diagnosis and treatment of myofascial pain syndromes (chronic pain conditions that occur in the musculoskeletal system when there is no obvious sign of injury or inflammation).

IMS involves the use of fine, sterile acupuncture needles to target specific muscles or trigger points responsible for your discomfort.

By inserting these needles into the affected areas, we can stimulate a healing response, release muscle tension, and improve nerve function. This process is designed to encourage the body’s natural healing mechanisms and restore optimal muscle function.


How Does Intramuscular Stimulation Work?

IMS is grounded in Western Medical Science, and has a solid foundation in its radiculopathic model of pain, which is now supported by many experts in the field. It was developed by Dr. 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.

The treatment, which utilizes acupuncture needles because they are the thinnest implements available that are designed to penetrate deep within muscle tissue, specifically targets injured muscles that have contracted and become shortened from distress.

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.

RELATED READING: Acupuncture vs. IMS: Understanding the Key Differences

The Benefits of IMS

There are a variety of conditions and injuries that can be treated effectively with IMS:

  • Myofascial Pain
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Arthritis
  • Tendonitis
  • Headaches
  • TMJ
  • Knee Pain
  • Whiplash
  • Neck Pain
  • Upper Back Pain
  • Frozen Shoulder
  • Torticollis
  • Ischial Bursistis
  • Stomach Pain
  • Tennis Elbow
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Low Back Pain
  • Scoliosis
  • Spondylosis
  • Piriformis Syndrome
  • Achilles Tendonitis

Patient Story
After months of trying other treatments I landed in Andrew’s office… one treatment of IMS made a huge difference in releasing months of pain!! I have continued regular treatments to maintain, can’t recommend him enough.Rebecca Gerein


How IMS Can Be Used to Treat Pain

Often we treat pain without bothering with its definition. The majority of all pain patients recover quickly from their injuries; in fact, more than 90% will be fully functional within eight weeks simply because of the body’s ability to heal itself, regardless of treatment.

Pain is an entity that is commonly misunderstood because medical diagnosis traditionally presumes that pain is only a signal of tissue injury conveyed to the central nervous system.

However, there are actually three distinct categories of pain: Nociception, Inflammation, and Neuropathy.

  1. Nociception: The immediate response conveyed to the brain, signaling tissue injury (noxious input). An example is the response from a slap to the skin.
  2. Inflammation: A local response to cellular injury resulting in redness, swelling, heat, pain and sometimes loss of function, and that serves as a mechanism initiating the elimination of noxious agents and facilitating the healing process.
  3. Neuropathy or Radiculopathic Pain: Ongoing pain with no obvious signs caused by a malfunction in the peripheral nervous system, leading to supersensitivity in the pain sensory system.

Neuropathy is a relatively new word, specifically referring to any functional disturbances or pathological chances in the Peripheral Nervous System (PNS); though it is often used incorrectly to describe the nervous system as a whole. It is imperative to distinguish these entities as separate, since they show different outcomes and presentations. The CNS is well-protected by the skull and the spine, unlike the often overlooked PNS, which is much more vulnerable to damage and denotes the greatest number of chronic pain cases.

Medical professionals are apt to treat pain in the first two categories, but are perplexed by pain that shows no sign of tissue damage or inflammation. Long-term pain can exist in ongoing nociception/inflammation such as a fracture or rheumatoid arthritis (treated with surgery or anti-inflammatory drugs), a psychogenic disorder such as clinical depression (treated with medication or counseling), or most commonly neuropathic pain (explained further below).

Neuropathic pain has several indicators:

  • There is pain in the absence of ongoing tissue damage.
  • There is a delay in the onset of pain after a precipitating injury.
  • Mild stimuli are very painful.
  • There may be a stabbing component.
  • Pronounced summation and after-reaction from stimuli (ie. the pain gets worse with exercise).

This explains why you might feel fine immediately following a car accident, but a week later complain of whiplash. The most common cause of neuropathy is everyday wear and tear or overuse. The significance of this discovery is that disorders such as low back pain, whiplash, frozen shoulder, tennis elbow, fibromyalgia, myofascial pain, and Achilles heel are all physiologically the same.


Neuropathy is defined as a nerve that is not functioning properly, with or without an altered structure. Damage to the peripheral nervous system is analogous to a supersensitive car alarm.

A common form of neuropathy is myofascial pain. The clinical features of myofascial pain are as follows:

  • Continuous, deep, dull aching pain.
  • Tender spots (trigger points) in muscles.
  • Relief by deactivating trigger points.
  • Restricted range of motion in muscles.
  • Muscle twitch with trigger point stimulation.
  • Patient is startled or jumps with trigger point pressure.
  • Intramuscular Stimulation

Supersensitivity and muscle shortening cannot be operated on and ‘cut away,’ while ‘painkillers’ and other analgesic pills only mask the pain (often poorly) and promote toxicity, compounding the problem. Neuropathy only responds to a physical input of energy.

IMS is comparable in some ways to acupuncture; however, there are a number of important differences. IMS requires a medical examination and diagnosis by a practitioner knowledgable in anatomy, needles insertions are indicated by physical signs and not according to predefined, non-scientific meridians, while subjective and objective effects are usually experienced immediately.

Do you live in Victoria or Langford and need the help of an IMS physiotherapist? Parkway Physiotherapy & Performance Centre can help. Reach out to our team to book an appointment.

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