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Intramuscular Stimulation Ottawa

One of the key techniques that the Ottawa Physiotherapy and Sport Clinics use in our chronic pain program is Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS). IMS is used to treat neuropathic pain which is caused by irritation or pressure on the nerves causing muscles to become shortened and hypersensitive. Many chronic pain conditions are caused by this neuropathic pain and can occur in the absence of inflammation or tissue damage. Since neuropathic pain can exist without ongoing inflammation or tissue damage, painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications may provide only temporary relief or have no effect at all. In addition, X-rays, CT’s, MRI’s and other diagnostic tests may not show any visible signs of injury. This service is offered at our Barrhaven physiotherapy, Orleans physiotherapy and Westboro physiotherapy locations.

How does intramuscular stimulation work?

IMS is able to treat this neuropathic pain by desensitizing affected nerves and muscles using acupuncture needles. It is important to note that there is no use of electricity with IMS, rather it is the mechanical simulation of the insertion of the needle into the affected muscles that provides the therapeutic effect. The needle activates a reflex causing the muscle to release and in doing so, eases the pain. Inserting the needle also creates a minor therapeutic injury to the area, stimulating the body to increase local circulation and activate its healing systems. The technique is particularly effective for deep muscles that can be difficult or impossible to reach with other forms of treatment. For example, there are some muscles around the spine and pelvis that are too deep to be treated with massage, and can only be addressed with a needle.

Conditions that can be treated using IMS

A broad range of musculoskeletal problems are now successfully treated using the relatively new technique of Intramuscular Stimulation. We can treat a variety of ailments using IMS including:

It is important to note that IMS is not effective for non-musculoskeletal based pain, such as the following:

If you have one of these conditions, it is unlikely that IMS will be able to help the pain.

How to determine who is a good candidate for Intramuscular Stimulation treatments

To determine the source of pain and the best approach to treatment, our physiotherapists at the Ottawa Physiotherapy and Sport Clinics (IMS practitioners) perform a complete assessment including a medical history and physical tests. Once a full history and physical assessment is completed, your therapist will let you know if you are a good candidate for treatment or if you should consider other treatment alternatives. If you are a good candidate for IMS treatment, sessions are usually scheduled once per week to allow time for the body to heal between sessions. The number of sessions required varies, depending on factors such as length of time a problem has been present, age and general health. In published studies of patients with low back pain, the average number of IMS treatments required was 8.2. In some cases, especially if the pain is of recent onset, one or two treatments may be sufficient.

Qualifications required to provide Intramuscular Stimulation treatment

IMS is practiced in Ontario by Certified Gunn IMS Practitioners (CGIMS) who are either Physical Therapists or Medical Doctors.

Will my doctor know about Intramuscular Stimulation?

It is quite possible that your family physician is not familiar with IMS, as they are bombarded with a huge variety of medical conditions and treatment options that they must keep up to date on. The information provided on this site represents some of the basic information that will help you or your doctor to understand how IMS works.

How to Access Intramuscular Stimulation Treatment

If you think you have a condition that may benefit from IMS, simply make an appointment with one of our IMS qualified physiotherapists. They will assess you and will offer you advice on the best approach to treating your condition, and can answer any further questions that you may have. You do not need a doctor’s referral to see a physiotherapist in the province of Ontario, but if you have a referral, please bring it with you. Just call one of our three Barrhaven physiotherapy, Orleans physiotherapy or Westboro physiotherapy locations and we will book you an appointment for your first consultation.

For further detailed information on IMS, please browse the website for the Institute for the Study and Treatment of Pain at