Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS) was developed by Dr. Chan Gunn in the 1970s as a method to treat pain that he deemed was "neuropathic" in nature - in other words, pain originating from irritation of a nerve root as it leaves the spinal cord. Dr. Gunn theorized that even minor irritation to a nerve (ie. secondary to muscle shortening) could lead to dysfunctional communication along the length of the nerve. This dysfunctional communication would cause a nerve to become sensitized, and due to the sensitive state of the nerve, typically harmless signals expressed along the nerve become exaggerated and misinterpreted as a painful signal. This painful signal can lead to further reflexive protective muscle shortening, potentially leading to further nerve irritation and the initiation of a continuous vicious cycle.
During an IMS treatment session, the therapist explores for taut or tender bands of muscle. IMS treatment then uses a traditional acupuncture needle to penetrate the shortened muscle. This stimulus will induce a reflexive relaxation response within the muscle, facilitating a lengthening response to the shortened muscle, and ultimately, to a reduction of pain. Often the sensation is described as a distinctive type of discomfort - typically in the form of a muscle twitch, cramp, or Charlie Horse-like sensation that is very brief (ie. seconds) in duration.
The research supporting the use of IMS is excellent. Due to his contributions to this model of treating pain, Dr. Gunn was awarded The Order of British Columbia (2001) as well as The Order of Canada (2001) - a distinction typically reserved for those demonstrating "the highest degree of merit, an outstanding level of talent or service, or an exceptional contribution to Canada and humanity".
Although effective, IMS is not always appropriate for everyone. Even similar symptoms that previously responded well to IMS may not respond to the same degree if the treatment isn't indicated. I completed my full certification in 2015 and use this technique quite often in the rehab and management of injuries. You can find more information on this technique by contacting me or by clicking on the logo below.