Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS) is a treatment that reduces muscle pain, joint pain and other types of body pain by inserting fine acupuncture needles into muscles that are not functioning properly. The needles are inserted into the taut, tight muscle bands or near the spine muscles where the nerve exiting from the spine may have become irritated and sensitive. Tight and sore muscles often accompany many conditions; overuse injuries, nerve irritation, low back pain, tendonitis, tension headaches, whiplash, arthritis and muscle strains.
The goal of IMS is to release shortened muscles to relieve nerve irritation to decrease pain and restore range of motion to improve movement patterns and function. To release a tight muscle, a thin needle is inserted, resulting in a twitch or grab which causes the muscle to relax. The needle also causes a small injury that draws blood to the area, initiating a natural healing process. The treatment creates an electrical potential in the muscle to make the nerve function normally again. It’s kind of like “rebooting” the muscle.
IMS/Dry Needling is used to treat a wide variety of many painful conditions in the muscles, joints, tendons, fascia and nerves. Some examples are ankle sprains, tennis elbow, whiplash, TMJ dysfunction, lower back pain, neck pain, and sciatica. Just about every injury or pain state creates dysfunction within the surrounding muscle tissue, which can be effectively treated with this technique.
It is common to feel some post-treatment soreness in the areas that were treated, much like a hard workout at the gym. This does not always occur but is expected and is considered normal. It usually lasts for 2 hours but can last longer if the muscle is especially sensitive.
IMS uses a slightly thicker needle inserted directly into palpable tight bands to cause a twitch response to release muscle tension and sensitivity. Unlike Acupuncture, there is often a strong sensation of an involuntary muscle twitch which is often described as achy.
Acupuncture is a technique based in traditional Chinese medicine and is thousands of years old. It involves inserting fine filament needles into specific acupuncture points along meridians (thought to be pathways of energy flow throughout the body) to establish equilibrium within the system. With Acupuncture, the needles are often left in place for a longer duration of time (about 15-30 minutes), and there’s often very little sensation felt with the needles.
The theory and methodology differ slightly however, they are largely the same. Dry Needling is a generic term for the use of a needle to release a motor point in the muscle, while IMS (Intramuscular Stimulation) and FDN (Functional Dry Needling) are essentially brand names that depict the Practitioner’s specific training background.