IMS stands for intramuscular stimulation and is an anatomy specific form of acupuncture performed by specially trained physiotherapists and some doctors. It has its roots in traditional Chinese acupuncture, but is fundamentally different in many ways. IMS uses Western medicine’s understanding of the neurophysiology of pain and Dr Chan Gunn’s assessment techniques of identifying underlying nerve irritations to treat chronic pain issues. The technique does use acupuncture needles, but not in the way someone practicing traditional acupuncture would. Traditional acupuncture focuses on pre-mapped out points in the body that relate to different organs and meridians of energy running through the body. Fine acupuncture needles are then inserted into a number of these points and the person rests with them in for 10-20 minutes. It can be very useful for the right condition, but it is not as specific or as purposeful as IMS.
To understand why IMS is performed the way it is you should have a basic understanding of how your body experiences pain. If you haven’t already, please read the article titled Why Things Hurt: Explain Pain.
When a physiotherapist performs IMS he will first assess your basic posture and movement patterns to look for some common signs of underlying nerve irritation. The most common one is to palpate for tender bands or knots in particular muscle groups. He will look for restriction of movement in major joints such as your hips and shoulders and note the appearance of the skin and muscle tissue on either side of your spine. When there is an underlying nerve irritation in an area, the skin can start to look like the rind of an orange peel, feel thickened and respond differently to light touch. A person may develop goose bumps easily and/or have areas of coolness or hair loss. The therapist will take all these things into account when determining where to treat you. Read More