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IMS & Acupuncture, what is the difference?

I get asked a lot what the difference between IMS (intramuscular stimulation) and acupuncture is. Physiotherapists typically practice IMS using the same acupuncture needles.

Types of Needles

The needles that are used are the same. It is practitioner preference regarding the size and brand of needle.

Difference in Training

Acupuncturists are trained very thoroughly in Western Medicine as well as Traditional Chinese Medicine Theory - in total 2190 hours. Extensive detail is paid to learning internal medicine, anatomy and physiology, as well as point location and treatment style; and many student clinical hours are accumulated.

Needle location

IMS uses the trigger point of the muscle which is defined by the dictionary as "a sensitive area of the body, stimulation or irritation of which causes a specific effect in another part, especially a tender area in a muscle that causes generalized musculoskeletal pain when overstimulated"

Acupuncture points are very specific points that sometimes also lie on trigger points. Acupuncturists are not just trained to needle acupuncture points but also: trigger points, motor points, extra points, scalp points and ear points. When there is muscular pain my treatment style is to use a combination of the above points to achieve the best possible treatment outcome. An IMS treatment uses only trigger and motor points.

Treatment Style

My treatment style is after needling the points to sometimes stimulate necessary trigger points either manually or with electrical stimulation. The patient is then left to relax on the table for 20-30 minutes while the muscles relax and the body does it's thing. Patient's are all treated individually and patient preference for treatment style is always a consideration. Any other health concerns are also addressed during a treatment as it is not isolated to the muscular pain or injury.

IMS often involves short needle retention time, a lot of needle manipulation and would not treat other health concerns.

Every patient's treatment will be different, please don't hesitate to contact me if you have questions regarding how acupuncture can help you.

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