IMS / Dry Needling

by | Nov 11, 2022

Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS)


What is Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS)?

IMS, also known as intramuscular stimulation or Trigger Point Dry Needling (TPND), is a form of passive treatment aimed at modifying pain and improving available range of motion during times of injury. It involves the use of an acupuncture needle or ‘dry needle’ placed into a muscle group with the intention of triggering a reactive event. This event can be felt as a modest ache or a reflexive twitch around the needle, not too dissimilar to getting hit in the knee with a reflex hammer. Once achieved the needle is promptly removed and the desired effect has either been achieved or subsequent points are selected and needled at the discretion of your therapist to achieve the desired outcome. The total timeline of treatment may vary depending on how many needles are required to achieve results. 

Is IMS safe?

The short answer is yes. Having said that there are certain points on the body that do carry some measure of risk. They are generally located over the mid back and neck. It is the responsibility of your therapist to inform you of any relevant risks during your treatment and give you the opportunity to accept or deny these risks. Your therapist has undergone significant training in order to minimize risk of injury and it is our job to keep you safe while on the path to recovery. 

Why does IMS work?

The truth is we’re not quite sure yet. There are a lot of studies available comparing IMS/TPDN to other forms of therapy as well as comparing it to exercise alone. All show positive outcomes from the use of this treatment. There are some theories that it may, in effect, reset the nervous system either through the introduction of novel stimuli or electrical discharge due to the metallic nature of the needle. Other theories include the release of healing cells known as substance P as a result of the procedure. The exact mechanisms remains a point of targeted research but what we do know is that for the right person IMS works fast and profoundly.

Do the effects of IMS last?

The answer to this question is complicated because pain is complicated. With that in mind, if the injury is physical in nature then it is unlikely. When tissue gets disrupted then mechanical stress in the form of targeted exercise is a requisite for durable recovery. If the injury is largely sensational, meaning no significant tissue disruption but a profound pain experience, then possibly. For further insight into how pain functions as an experience visit our previous post “the painful truth” for more information.

Are there any side effects of IMS/TPDN?

Some people may experience mild side effects from their treatment. As the needle does create some micro-trauma this can lead to a sense of fatigue or mild ache in the area. This is typically resolved with heat as needed and appropriate hydration. These symptoms can last as little as 20 minutes to as long as 2 days. Other mild side effects can include bruising post session. There are no firm activity restrictions required post treatment unless the patient wishes to do so. Before your session, your therapist will have a detailed conversation with you regarding treatment planning, potential risks, and what to expect.

When will I notice the benefits of IMS?

Following a detailed assessment, your therapist will recommend a treatment plan based on the nature of your condition and their findings. For most people the mobility benefits resulting from IMS are immediate and profound. However, those suffering from chronic or persistent conditions might require a series of treatments to disrupt established patterns of pain, spasm, or dysfunction.

How do I book IMS?

The Physiotherapists at South Island Physiotherapy have the experience and knowledge to help you navigate pain and injury. If you’re interested in IMS you can book with one of our physiotherapists HERE

Book Your Appointment Now

Sign up for our newsletter!

Join the South Island Physiotherapy family! Stay up-to-date with our latest services and offerings as well as health strategies and advice for a healthier you.