• Karina Cranston

What's the deal with IMS?


Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS), is “a total system for the diagnosis 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)”

History of IMS

Intramuscular Stimulation (a.k.a Gunn IMS) was introduced by Dr. Chan Gunn in the 1970’s while he was working as a physician in British Columbia. He worked with a lot of clients who had chronic pain that just wouldn’t go away despite the injury having healed and having used a variety of different treatments. He found that when the peripheral nerves in our body aren’t working properly over time, they can become supersensitive, which can cause muscles to become chronically tight and sore. This can also cause the tendons in our body to become thickened and easily irritated.

Dr. Chan Gunn discovered that inserting an acupuncture needle into the supersensitive muscle helped calm down the muscle and the nerve that feeds it. The insertion of the needle causes 3 things to happen:

  1. A stretch receptor in the muscle is stimulated, resulting in the muscle relaxing (lengthening)

  2. The needle causes a little bit of trauma to the tissue, causing an increase of blood flow to that area, which helps with healing

  3. An electrical potential in the muscle is created, which allows the nerve to “reset” and function normally again

Neuropathic Pain


Pain caused by supersensitive nerves is called neuropathic pain. Symptoms of neuropathic pain include:

  • Chronic pain without any ongoing tissue damage

  • Tender points in muscles (a.k.a. trigger points) that keep coming back even after stretching and/or massage

  • Feeling of tightness or stiffness in a joint or muscle

  • Abnormal sensations in your arms or legs (e.g. pins and needles, aching)

Are you a candidate for IMS?


Some conditions that can benefit from IMS are:

  • Tendinopathy (Achilles, Rotator Cuff, Golfer’s and Tennis Elbow)

  • Jaw Pain

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

  • Shoulder and Hip impingement syndromes

  • Myofascial Pain Syndrome

  • Iliotibial Band Syndrome

  • Headaches

  • Neck Pain

  • Patellofemoral Syndrome

  • Low Back Pain

  • Repetitive Strain Injuries

  • Shin Splints

  • Sciatica

  • Trigger Finger

  • Spinal Disc Problems

  • Plantar Fasciitis

  • Piriformis Syndrome

It is important to note that chronic pain that is neurological in nature will not show up on imaging (XR, CT Scan, or MRI). That is why it is really important to have a thorough examination done by a practitioner who is trained to recognize the symptoms of neuropathic pain.


What does this treatment look and feel like?

First of all the physiotherapist will do a comprehensive assessment on you to see if you are a candidate for IMS. They will look at how well your body moves, they will palpate muscles and skin, and do a few other tests on you. If you are a candidate for IMS, the physiotherapist will use acupuncture needles (yes, they are very small!) and insert them into various tight muscles. You may feel the muscle twitch (activation of that stretch reflex), feel a deep ache, or a slight cramp in the area. The needles are then removed. Usually patients will notice a benefit after the first session but it often takes a few more sessions to notice a more substantial change. It is recommended that IMS be done no more than 1x/wk.


If you suffer from any of the conditions listed above, or have symptoms that seem to be neuropathic in nature, contact us at East Mill Physio and we will help determine if you are a candidate for IMS treatment.


Disclaimer: All information provided can at no time substitute medical advice and individual assessment by a qualified medical professional. East Mill Physio recommends seeking professional advice before commencing any type of self-treatment, as the information provided is not intended to be relied on for medical diagnosis and treatment. Visitors of the website eastmillphysio.ca use the information provided at their own risk. East Mill Physio will not accept responsibility for any consequences or injuries. By accessing the website eastmillphysio.ca, visitors agree not to redistribute the information and material presented. eastmillphysio.ca provides links to companies for the visitor’s convenience only, and does not endorse or recommend the services of any company. The company selected by the visitor of eastmillphysio.ca is solely responsible for the services provided to you. East Mill Physio will not be liable for any damages, costs, or injuries following or in any way connected to the visitor’s choice of company/service.


About the author: Karina Cranston is a Registered Physiotherapist. She has a diverse skill set and has experience working with clients of all ages and treating a variety of neuromusculoskeletal injuries and conditions. Whether it’s acute or chronic, she thoroughly enjoys helping individuals embark or continue on their own unique journey towards better health and well-being.