Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS)

Intramuscular stimulation (IMS) is an effective treatment for chronic pain conditions that are rooted in musculoskeletal origins where there is not obvious inflammation or injury. IMS is grounded in Western Medicine and was developed by Dr C. P. Gunn and is now taught in both the University of British Columbia Medical department and the University of Washington's Multidisciplinary Pain Centre.


"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."


Neuropathic pain typically occurs due to minor nerve irritation. When nerves are irritated they become increasingly sensitive and their signals can become exaggerated resulting in painful stimuli. This may in turn cause the muscles, powered by the nerves, to spasm, shorten and contract, which increases pressure on the joint leading to increased wear and tear or OA or spondylosis in the spine.  


The treatment involves dry needling of affected areas of the body without injecting any substance.  The needle sites can be at the epicenter of taut, tender muscle bands, or they can be near the spine where the nerve root may have become irritated and supersensitive.  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.  

  1. A stretch receptor in the muscle is stimulated, producing a reflex relaxation (lengthening)
  2. The needle also causes a small injury that draws blood to the area, initiating the natural healing process.
  3. The treatment creates an electrical potential in the muscle to make the nerve function normally again.  


The needle used in IMS, by stimulating muscle spindles, essentially becomes a specific and unique tool for the diagnosis of Neuropathic Muscle Pain. 


The goal of treatment 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 treats the underlying neuropathic condition that causes the pain.  


Frequency: treatments are usually once per week and average from three to ten visits.


 Therapy and Rehabilitation Clinic

Therapy & Rehabilitation Clinic