What is IMS?

We are often asked by new patients to describe what IMS (Intramuscular Stimulation) is and why our physiotherapists use it as one of their most powerful treatment methods.We asked our team of physiotherapists to describe how they approach this with clients.

Can you describe what IMS is? 

IMS is a therapeutic treatment that targets tight and sore muscles that often accompany other conditions, such as overuse injuries, nerve irritation, muscle strains, tension headaches, whiplash, arthritis, and low back pain. It involves the insertion of fine acupuncture needles into tight bands of muscle that contain a knot, or ‘trigger point’.

What does it do to my injured muscle?

The goal of IMS is to release tight muscles in order to relieve nerve irritation and restore range of motion.  To release a hypertonic or hyperactive muscle, a thin needle is inserted into the muscle, resulting in a twitch or grab, which causes it to relax. Once the tension is released, the pain is reduced and range of motion improved.

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.

Why do I experience that particular feeling?

What you experience feels like a muscle cramp and is a distinctive feeling caused by the muscle grasping the needle. This grasping feeling will then in turn become a feeling of release as the tightened and short muscle relaxes. This is an important feeling and a sensation that is necessary to gain lasting relief.

What can I expect after the treatment?

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 is also common to feel tired or fatigued, emotional, “out of it”, or even energized after treatment. This is a normal response and can last an hour or two.

What should I do after my treatment? 

We highly recommend increasing your water intake for 24 hours following your treatment to aid circulation and help avoid or reduce soreness. If you do experience some soreness, we recommend soaking in a hot bath or shower, or applying a hot or cold pack over the area that was treated. We also encourage you to do the following based on your comfort level: Light stretching and/or workout, normal physical activity, massage the area.

Why do you choose to use IMS with your patients? How does it complement the manual manipulations that you do?

Combined with manual therapy that we do with our patients,  IMS treatments helps to prevent the tightened muscles from pulling an area out of alignment again. After releasing the tight muscles, we are able to more easily retrain your movement patterns to improve how your body moves and performs. This combined approach will help prevent the return of tightness in these muscles and will greatly decrease the likelihood of re-injury.

For more information about IMS at Pivotal Health, please visit our IMS service page to learn more or to book an appointment.