Intramuscular Stimulation, or IMS for short, is a technique used by physiotherapists since it was developed in the 1970’s in Vancouver by the pain specialist Dr. Chan Gunn. IMS is a total system for the assessment and treatment of chronic musculoskeletal pain that has a neuropathic cause. It is grounded in western medical science and there is a growing body of evidence to support its efficacy.
Neuropathy refers to when a nerve is not functioning properly once it has exited the spinal cord. Often this occurs without any structural damage to the nerve meaning that x-rays and scans may look normal. Some indicators of neuropathy are pain in the absence of tissue damage, delayed onset of pain after an injury (e.g. in whiplash), and pain that gets worse after doing more activity. There are other specific physical signs that suggest there may be a neuropathic cause to a persons pain too. These signs will be picked up during the assessment and will indicate whether that person is a candidate for IMS treatment.
When nerve conduction is reduced in neuropathy, one of the main results is that the muscles that are supplied by that nerve become tight and shortened. This in itself can cause pain and supersensitivity of the muscle so even light touch to that area can feel very tender. The shortened muscle will also create more stress on the adjoining tendons and joints which can create problems in these structures causing further pain. Some common conditions in which an underlying neuropathy can be a factor are whiplash, chronic low back or neck pain, headaches, tendinitis, shoulder pain, and groin pain.
IMS involves the use of very thin needles which are inserted into the muscles that have been affected by neuropathy. This creates a ‘grasp’ or cramp sensation which causes the muscle to release, which in turn takes the tension off the surrounding structures. In this way supersensitive muscles can be desensitized and the persistent pull of short muscles can be released. When performed well IMS has a remarkable success rate, reducing symptoms in even long term chronic conditions that may have been present for months or even years, giving long lasting and often permanent results.
If you’re a regular league curler, whether recreational or competitive, then you’re surely familiar with the aches, pains and injuries that go hand-in-hand with the sport. Joints and muscles at the knees, back and shoulders are most vulnerable to injury. The good news is that by taking the following three preventative steps, you can minimize your chances of injury and maximize your enjoyment of curling this season!
Number one on my list is proper equipment. I can guarantee that if you curl long enough you’re going to fall once or twice. Over 90% of curling injuries result from a slip and fall. If you’re on the ice with any regularity, it’s worth ditching the runners in favour of a proper gripper and slider. Beginner curlers and young curlers in particular should also consider wearing a helmet when starting out. Scary fact: when you fall, your head is the body part that’s most likely to hit the ice first!
Number two is a proper warm up. But wait, there’s a twist. You need to actually get WARM. You need to increase your heart rate and body temperature! If you think that I’m stating the obvious, just look around at all of the curlers casually chatting or gently stretching before going on the ice. These activities will only warm you up if you’re doing them on a hot beach or in a hot yoga studio. Start by running on the spot, high-knees, butt-kicks, or doing jumping jacks. Follow that up with some curling-specific stretches including the legs and trunk, and you’ll be ready to hit the ice.
My third and final tip is this: get a qualified coach to take a look at your mechanics. I remember the first time that I saw my delivery and sweeping on camera, I was shocked at how awkward I looked! I’m not saying that you’re in the same boat; you might be perfect. But you may not look as good as you think you do. If you aren’t already getting regular coaching, an instructor can provide you with some insight into your technique. Improving your delivery and sweeping by optimizing the way that you load your joints and muscles will improve your performance and prevent overuse injuries. You’ll play better, and feel better doing it!
Keep these three points in mind and with any luck you’ll make it through the curling season with little to no time missed due to injury! If you do happen to run into any issues along the way, keep in mind that a visit to a physiotherapist can help you to get back on track. Happy curling in 2016!
For more information on curling injuries, prevention and exercise, join us for a free informational talk on Tuesday, January 26th at 6:30 at Sun City’s Glenmore location. Call 250-762-6313 to reserve your seat.
Rob Heimbach is a registered physiotherapist and associate at Sun City Physiotherapy’s Glenmore clinic. He can be contacted at 250-762-6313 or email firstname.lastname@example.org