Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS) / Dry Needling

IMS or dry needling is used by physiotherapists and a few physicians to alleviate pain and muscle tightness. This technique looks very much like acupuncture but differs from it in very specific ways. Similarities are that the needle is pretty much the same though sometimes a little “thicker” and the insertion of the needle is the same, but there are significant differences. In acupuncture, the needles are inserted into specific predetermined points for a particular condition according to a “map” and usually, the needles are left in for some time. With Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS) the physiotherapist determines the insertion points following a local examination of the muscles looking for tight areas which may be trigger points but may also be bands of muscles fibres. The actual insertion of the needle is almost always painless but if the muscle is tight then it can grab the needle and give a weird sensation that can be uncomfortable. Once inserted into the point the needle may be moved up and down until the muscle relaxes, this usually only takes a few seconds.

An additional technique is to combine it with electrical stimulation through the needle to isolated the muscle when it can’t be reached with surface electrodes or if more stimulation is required to relax the muscle.

In Alberta, a therapist using IMS must have taken an accredited course and examination to register with the regulating body as being able to practice IMS. Jim Meadows is so registered and uses IMS in his practice at Creekside Physiotherapy in Airdrie.

Conditions Treated


If your therapist feels that physiotherapy will not help you she or he will tell you that and suggest alternative paths for you take as soon as possible.

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Treatments will be changed appropriately as your condition improves and if we are unable to help you we will tell you that as soon as we know.

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