11 Apr 2022
Is IMS/Dry Needling for You?Do you often find yourself having tight muscles that cause you pain or discomfort? Has anyone ever suggested IMS/dry needling for you, but you weren’t sure how it could help with your pain? The IMS/dry needling technique is widely used in physio today and can be extremely effective for many different musculoskeletal conditions!
What is IMS/Dry Needling?Intramuscular stimulation (IMS) is a form of dry needling where a very thin acupuncture needle is inserted into the muscle. A technique is considered “dry needling” when there is nothing injected into the body or any fluid on the needle itself. So how does IMS really work? First, the physiotherapist will locate the site of pain on the muscle and clean the area with alcohol. Then, they will quickly insert the sterile, single-use needle. These needles are so thin that you barely feel them entering the muscle! Once inside the muscle, the physiotherapist will move it around, specifically looking for a reaction where the muscle contracts then relaxes. The contraction can be a twitch – quick activation and relaxation – or it can be a cramp – quick activation but slow release. This reaction is known as the stretch-reflex. For example, imagine yourself in the doctor’s office where they are tapping right below your kneecap. If they hit the right spot, your shin will shoot up to the sky. Same thing happens in this case with IMS. When the needle hits a certain area in the muscle (stretch receptor), signals get sent to the spinal cord, which leads to contraction of the muscle. You may be wondering what purpose that muscle contraction serves. Well, the ultimate goal of IMS is to reset a tightened muscle. When muscles are constantly in a tightened state, they tend to have less healthy tissues present due to decreased blood flow in the area. By contracting that muscle and allowing it to relax, it can decrease the tension and pain that you might be experiencing. Additionally, when inserting the needle, it creates a tiny “injury” within the muscle. This helps to draw in more blood flow to the area to kickstart the healing process and promote tissue repair. Keep in mind that only angry, tight muscles react to the needle! If the technique was performed on a regular, non-irritated muscle, the contraction would not happen.
Who can benefit from IMS?IMS was originally developed to treat chronic pain conditions that had no obvious signs of inflammation or injury. Today, IMS can be used for both chronic and some acute injuries/conditions. IMS can benefit a wide range of conditions such as, but not limited to:
- Low Back Pain
- Lateral Epicondylitis (Tennis Elbow)
- Medial Epicondylitis (Golfer’s Elbow)
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Chronic Whiplash
- Jaw and Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain
- Neck Pain
- Shin Splints
- Achilles Tendinopathy
- Plantar Fasciopathy
- Patellofemoral Pain
Are there any side effects with IMS?The success rate from IMS is shown to be very effective in clinical practice! It can be utilized to restore muscle strength and improve range of motion in your joints. It is also effective in pain reduction. However, there are some side effects associated with this technique. During IMS, you may feel some discomfort as the muscle contracts against the needle. You may also experience soreness or achiness 24-48 hours post treatment. During this 24-48 hour period, we recommend that you avoid vigorous exercise or excessive stress on the area that was needled. To help ease the soreness, we recommend applying heat packs to the area and drinking lots of water to stay hydrated! Other side effects may include mild bruising, nausea, dizziness, and feelings of drowsiness/tiredness. Because a needle is inserted into the body, there are also serious risks that can potentially happen such as: pneumothorax, puncture of other vital tissues or organs, and infection. The chances of these serious events occurring is very small, but we do need to be transparent about the negative possibilities of IMS. Typically, 6-10 IMS treatments are required prior to seeing significant results. With that being said, it is recommended that we only perform this technique once per week; this allows the body to recover and adapt to the effects of IMS.
Is IMS the same as acupuncture?The answer is no! IMS is rooted in scientific research and evidence. It is based on physiological and anatomical knowledge of muscles. In contrast, acupuncture is based on traditional Chinese medicine focused on targeting specific meridian points. These pre-mapped meridian points are areas on the body associated with particular organs. The amount of time the needle stays in the body demonstrates a key difference between IMS and acupuncture. IMS inserts the needle and removes it shortly after, whereas acupuncture leaves the needles inside for 10-20 minutes. Both these techniques can be useful treatment options, however, the condition or injury that you have must be taken into consideration. If you think that IMS can benefit you and your injury, talk to your physiotherapist about it! All of our physiotherapists at south edmonton and stony plain locations are well-trained in IMS and are happy to provide you with the safest and most effective treatment that suits your condition. If you have any further questions concerning your injury or IMS as a treatment option, book an appointment online or call us today at 587-635-5555 (South Edmonton) or 780-591-5555 (Stony Plain). Our expert physiotherapists will be happy to assist you in any way!
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