What is Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS)?
IMS (intramuscular stimulation) is a type of dry needling that is used to release muscle tension and trigger points. It is an effective treatment for many athletes (and people who live active lifestyles) who suffer from pain and injuries due to their sport or activity.
Intramuscular stimulation can help to relieve muscle strain, improve muscle extensibility and contractility, reduce pain, and stimulate the healing process. In other words, it can help you recover from injuries faster and get back to your sport or activity level with less pain.
IMS can be administered throughout most of the body, targeting muscle and ligament strains and pulls like those commonly developed by athletes who play highly-demanding sports (i.e. football, hockey, soccer, lacrosse, and rugby). However, IMS can also be helpful for those who play less “active” sports (i.e. golf or bowling), as well as people who work out regularly or otherwise live healthy and active lifestyles.
Now that we know IMS is a type of dry needling, the question you might be asking is “What is dry needling?”
Dry needling is a technique that uses thin, sterile needles to penetrate the skin and target muscle tissue. The needles are usually inserted into trigger points, which are areas of muscle tension or knots that can cause pain and other problems.
The goal of dry needling is to release muscle tension and relieve pain. It is not meant to be a replacement for other forms of treatment, such as physiotherapy or manual therapy, but it can be used in conjunction with these other modalities.
Like shockwave therapy, which uses sound waves to target muscle tissue, dry needling is a relatively new, but commonly used, treatment modality; studies suggest that dry needling performed by physiotherapists is an effective treatment for those suffering from musculoskeletal pain and injuries. (1)
Are IMS and Dry Needling the Same as Acupuncture?
“Wait,” you might be saying—“how is dry needling different from acupuncture?”
This is a common question, but these two types of therapy are actually quite different.
Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine that has been used for centuries to treat a variety of conditions.
Like dry needling/IMS, it also involves the insertion of thin needles into the skin at specific points on the body, called acupuncture points. However, this is where most of the similarities end.
The goal of acupuncture is to promote balance and harmony within the body and to treat a wide range of conditions: from pain and headaches, to digestive issues and even anxiety.
Dry needling, on the other hand, is a relatively new Western modality that is used specifically to release muscle tension and relieve pain. In contrast to acupuncture, dry needling does not focus on energy meridians or balance in the body. Instead, it focuses on trigger points.
Dry Needling/IMS Trigger Points
Myofascial trigger points, or MTrPs, are a specific type of trigger point that is commonly treated with dry needling. They are palpable, hyperirritable nodules in skeletal muscle associated with chronic musculoskeletal pain. (2)
Trigger points are the main focus of dry needling, whereas acupuncture points are only one part of traditional Chinese acupuncture.
As you can see, while both dry needling and acupuncture use thin needles, the two modalities are quite different.
If you’re looking for relief from moderate to severe muscle pain, dry needling is an evidence-based treatment that has been shown to have a positive effect. (3) Thus, if you’re an athlete or someone who lives an active lifestyle, dry needling can potentially be a helpful treatment to relieve musculoskeletal pain and stimulate the body to speed up the healing process.
However, it’s important to work with a qualified dry needling practitioner who can properly assess your condition and devise a treatment plan that is specific to your needs.
Dry Needling & IMS in Victoria
If you’re interested in learning more about dry needling and how it can help you, contact Continuum Health Centre in Victoria, BC. Our team of practitioners provide IMS/dry needling services in addition to numerous other physiotherapy, sports psychology, sports nutrition, chiropractfic, soft tissue therapy, and kinesiology/athletic therapy services—all designed to integrate seamlessly with strength and conditioning activities.
At Continuum Health Centre, we believe that a comprehensive, holistic approach is the best way to manage pain, optimize performance, and prevent injuries. To learn more about our health and rehabilitation services or to book an appointment, call us at 1-778-433-7737 or click here to book online.
- Gattie E, Cleland JA, Snodgrass S. The Effectiveness of Trigger Point Dry Needling for Musculoskeletal Conditions by Physical Therapists: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2017 Mar;47(3):133-149. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2017.7096. Epub 2017 Feb 3. PMID: 28158962.
- Sikdar S, Shah JP, Gilliams E, Gebreab T, Gerber LH. Assessment of myofascial trigger points (MTrPs): a new application of ultrasound imaging and vibration sonoelastography. Annu Int Conf IEEE Eng Med Biol Soc. 2008;2008:5585-8. doi: 10.1109/IEMBS.2008.4650480. PMID: 19163983.
- Sánchez-Infante J, Navarro-Santana MJ, Bravo-Sánchez A, Jiménez-Diaz F, Abián-Vicén J. Is Dry Needling Applied by Physical Therapists Effective for Pain in Musculoskeletal Conditions? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Phys Ther. 2021 Mar 3;101(3):pzab070. doi: 10.1093/ptj/pzab070. PMID: 33609356.