Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS/Dry Needling)

What is Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS)?

Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS) is a total system for the assessment 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). At first glance, IMS may appear similar to acupuncture as it uses very thin needles to 'dry needle' affected areas without the injection of any substance. However, IMS differs from acupuncture in its application because needle insertion is indicated by physical signs as opposed to the predetermined meridians of acupuncture. IMS is based on known scientific, neurophysiological principles.


IMS treatment is best suited to treat soft tissue pain that shows no obvious sign of ongoing tissue damage or inflammation, such as many forms of: neck/back pain, tennis elbow, frozen shoulder and fibromyalgia, amongst others. It is often effective when other forms of therapy have failed. The concept of "neuropathic pain" can help to explain this type of pain. Typically this occurs when nerves malfunction following minor irritation. Nerves and nerve endings become extremely sensitive and cause normal, harmless signals to be exaggerated and misperceived as painful ones. This is known medically as “supersensitivity”, and results in pain and shortening in the muscles supplied by the involved nerve(s). Chronic muscle shortening can then produce pain elsewhere e.g. by pulling on tendons and straining them or by distressing the joints they move and contribute to many degenerative conditions such as "tendonitis" or "osteoarthritis."




The goal of IMS is to release muscle shortening which further presses on and irritates the nerves. Supersensitive areas can be desensitized and the persistent pull of shortened muscles reduced with IMS. The effects of IMS are cumulative - each needling session stimulates a certain amount of healing, until eventually the condition can more fully recover and pain dissipates as muscles loosen. The number of treatments you require will vary depending upon several factors such as the duration and extent of your condition. If the pain is of recent origin, one or two treatments may be all that is necessary. More chronic problems usually require more treatments.



If you are interested in receiving IMS treatment at our clinic, please mention this when booking your appointment to ensure that you are seen by one of our therapists trained in IMS. Physiotherapists at our clinic who utilize IMS have been certified by the Institute for the Study and Treatment of Pain, founded by the developer of the IMS technique, Dr. Chan Gunn M.D.

To learn more about IMS, please visit the University of British Columbia GunnIMS website at You can also contact us at


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