Acupuncture, IMS & You. By physiotherapist, Shelby Pudek, MPT

We all get aches and pains. Many of us have tight muscles. So what’s an effective treatment your physiotherapist can provide?

Acupuncture and Intra-Muscular Stimulation (IMS) are two effective treatment options. They are used to treat a variety of conditions such as the neck and back pain you experience; but they can also be used to treat tendonitis, chronically tight muscles, headaches and many more. Although many people have heard these terms, most people do not know exactly what they are, or how they work. Both forms of treatment can be very effective, and may be the trick to getting rid of your ailment.

Anatomical Acupuncture is a form of treatment where very fine needles are inserted into certain points throughout the body. These points are based on anatomical structures and will stimulate muscles, tendons, nerves, and blood vessels. The effects of acupuncture include reduced inflammation, reduced pain, and increased regeneration. This happens through the needle triggering an immune response which fights inflammation, releases endorphins which helps with pain, and a regenerative response to increase tissue growth. All of these reactions will help with pain and healing. Physiotherapists are not “Acupuncturists”, and the form of Acupuncture we use is tied to a western medicine diagnosis rather than Chinese medicine.

IMS was created to help with chronic pain. It is similar to Acupuncture, except the needles are inserted into taut “trigger points” in the muscle. This helps reset contracted muscles that have shortened from distress. The effects of releasing these tight muscles reduces pain as well as relieves pressure put on nerves by contracted muscles. Nerves that are under pressure can cause radiating and referred pain. IMS works through the muscle “grasping” onto the needle when it is inserted, which causes a cramping sensation and a muscle twitch. This triggers three reactions: a “relaxation reflex”, a small tissue injury that draws blood flow to the area stimulating the natural healing process, and an electrical impulse that resets the nerve to function normally again.

These two treatment techniques have many similarities, and many differences. Similarities include how it triggers a natural healing response, reduces muscle tension, and desensitizes nerves. Differences include how the treatment is administered, the overall sensation, and the science behind how they work.

During a treatment you can expect a full assessment and physiotherapy treatment. For acupuncture, the needles will be placed in certain points and left for 10-20 minutes. With IMS, the needles will be inserted and stimulated by the therapist, then immediately removed. You can expect some fatigue after treatment, and possible muscle soreness. Drinking water will be important to help battle these side effects. Overall they are alternative treatment methods that have been shown, in some cases, to give phenomenal results. Please discuss with a physiotherapist certified in Acupuncture or IMS to see if it is the right treatment for you.

If you would like more information on this topic, Sun City Physiotherapy will be hosting a free informational workshop on Thursday, November 15th at 6:30pm at Sun City Physiotherapy’s downtown location, 1468 St. Paul Street. Seating is limited. Please call 250-861-8056 to reserve your seat.