BY JOCELYN HEAD, DPT – Physical Therapist at NRPT
What is Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS)?
IMS is a treatment for myofascial trigger point pain that uses a fine gauge monofilament needle attached to a plunger device.
How does it work?
The IMS needle works similarly to a reflex hammer used to stimulate a knee-jerk; the hammer causes the muscle to briefly contract and then relax. However, with IMS, instead of the entire muscle contracting, only the muscle fibers in the immediate vicinity of the needle contract and relax. When the muscle relaxes it loosens a bit and pain and stiffness subside.
Isn’t that acupuncture?
Although IMS uses a similar needle as traditional acupuncture, it is based on western scientific neurophysiological principles. Unlike acupuncture, IMS is a very specific treatment approach applied by a trained physical therapist following a thorough orthopedic evaluation to assess your movement, strength, range of motion, muscle imbalances, etc.
Who benefits from IMS?
IMS is an effective form of treatment for many diagnoses including:
- Low back pain
- Shoulder pain
- Knee pain
- Tennis elbow
- Piriformis syndrome
- Achilles tendinitis
- Plantar fasciitis
- IT band syndrome
Does it hurt?
The needle used in IMS is much thinner than the hollow needle used to inject medicine or draw blood. You may not even feel the needle penetrate the skin. If your muscle is normal, the needle is painless. However, if the needle encounters a trigger point, you will feel a sensation like a cramp or mild “charley horse.” This discomfort typically goes away after several seconds.
How often will I need IMS?
Initially, treatments are once a week to allow time between treatments for the body to heal itself. The total number of treatments you may require depends on the duration and severity of your condition, the presence of scar tissue, and how quickly you can heal (which varies with age, smoking, diabetes, etc.). Some patients remain pain free for many years, while others may need periodic “boosters” depending on the severity of their condition.
Call NRPT today at (406) 543-0617 for more information or to schedule an appointment.