Intramuscular stimulation (IMS), also know as dry needling is a specialized needling technique used by physiotherapist to treat acute and chronic neuromuscular pain and functional movement deficits by deactivating hyperirritable trigger points and loosening shortened muscles. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Manual Physical Therapist defines dry needling as:
“Dry needling is a neurophysiological evidence-based treatment technique that requires effective manual assessment of the neuromuscular system. Physical therapists are well trained to utilize dry needling in conjunction with manual physical therapy interventions. Research supports that dry needling improves pain control, reduces muscle tension, normalizes biochemical and electrical dysfunction of motor endplates, and facilitates an accelerated return to active rehabilitation.”
Active trigger points are hyperirritable and hypersensitive spots within skeletal muscle. They are often found in taut bands of muscle and fascia. IMS involves inserting a small sterile acupuncture needle, into taut painful muscles bands and/or into muscles near the spine where the nerve root may become supersensitive. People often feel a twitch, jump or contraction in the muscle being needled. This often results in a reduction in muscle tension and pain. It is believed that IMS likely has a therapeutic effect on the immune, inflammatory, biomechanical, vascular and neurological systems.