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Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS)

By Rob Foley – Physiotherapist

What is IMS?

Intramuscular stimulation, or IMS, is a comprehensive system for the diagnosis and treatment of chronic pain. The treatment technique is performed exclusively by physicians and physiotherapists. The approach was pioneered by Dr. C Chan Gunn, a clinical professor and Honorary Peterhouse Cambridge Fellow with over 35 years of hands-on experience dealing with chronic pain. Many experts who treat chronic pain now support his “radiculopathic” model.

Radiculopathic Pain

Simply put, this is the pain that arises due to dysfunction in the nervous system. Healthy muscles and nerves require feedback or communication with the central nervous system. When a nerve is compressed the nerve and its target organ become supersensitive. The “disuse super sensitivity” results in abnormal function of the nerve, and target organ. For example, a normally painless sensation of light touch may be interpreted as painful and be associated with muscle spasm. The area sensitive to stimulation (the motor point) is significantly enlarged. Hence the muscle is more tender to touch. Another consequence of disuse super sensitivity is shortening of muscles.

Trigger Point Map Showing Referred Pain Areas

Muscle Shortening

In addition to tenderness a radiculopathy will cause muscle shortening, one of the key findings of chronic pain.

Muscle shortening will increase tissue tension and may contribute to conditions such as tennis elbow. Muscle shortening also increases joint compression and affects joint alignment, two of the most common causes of joint irritation. Perhaps most importantly, shortening of the muscles in the back and the neck contributes to abnormal joint forces that accelerate the rate of degenerative changes.


The techniques used in IMS are borrowed from traditional Chinese acupuncture but incorporate up-to-date scientific principles and neurophysiology. IMS treatment makes use of very fine gauge (acupuncture) needles. When a needle penetrates a super sensitive and shortened muscle is will “grasp” the needle and cause a characteristic, deep cramping sensation.

The goal of treatment is to release the shortened painful muscles, relieve tension and reduce referred pain and sensitivity. While you should notice improvement with every treatment it may require a number of sessions to bring your symptoms under control. Once this is achieved specific exercises may be prescribed as part of a maintenance program.

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Caleigh ( Athlete and student )

“After two sprained ankles within twenty-four hours of one another, intensive physiotherapy got me off crutches and to an overnight snowshoe camp and European soccer tour within weeks.”


Nell (Educator and (again, thanks to Ross) considerably more knowledgeable Cricket Spectator)

“I was referred to Ross by my doctor, originally, for treatment of shin splints. When Ross could see my progress was not as expected, he communicated with my doctor regarding the possibility of a tibia fracture – a subsequent CT scan confirmed it was. Thanks to Ross’s professional experience and keen attention to underlying symptoms, my injury was more accurately diagnosed and is now, with his physio support, healing well. Ross’ quiet sense of humour and steady encouragement have made my physio treatment experience very positive”.


Peter ( still strolling along. )

“Ross took the time to understand the impact heel pain had on my activities and analyze the mechanics and footwear that aggravated the pain. With therapy and the custom orthotics he prescribed and recommended footwear I was able to happily stroll through the villages and countryside of Italy this Summer.”

(still strolling along.)

Paul Gray ( active dad and running enthusiast )

“My experience at PhysioPlus was extremely positive. 3 days after tearing my ACL playing soccer I had my first visit. I walked in on crutches and was wearing an immobilizer knee brace for stability. Ross was able to help me regain confidence to bear weight on my injured leg and I was able to walk out with the crutches in one hand and the knee brace in the other.

Ross was able to confirm from his assessment of my knee that I had, in fact, ruptured my ACL which had not yet been confirmed, being prior to an appointment with the orthopaedic surgeon or an MRI.

Ross had me work through a program pre-surgery to regain as much mobility and stability I could without having the ACL intact. After the reconstructive surgery was completed we worked through a program to continue to increase mobility and strength. Having access to the exercise room complete with equipment was extremely helpful. Ross was able to explain and demonstrate how to effectively work through the exercise routines.

Within one year of my surgery I have returned to running and have started some hiking. I would highly recommend PhysioPlus to anyone requiring treatment. The atmosphere is calm and everyone is extremely friendly and caring.”

Paul Gray
Active Dad and Running Enthusiast

Lisa Wren (Age 55)

“After completing an extensive painting project, I ended up with a frozen right shoulder, which was extremely painful and debilitating. This is when my introduction to Physioplus occurred. My physiotherapist, Ross Baines, was instrumental in getting me back to good health. Ross used various interventional techniques to encourage movement in the shoulder joint, always providing me with ample information about each. He was always professional and communicated thoroughly with the rest of my medical team. I have every confidence that the care Ross provided expedited my return to normal activity. I would not hesitate to recommend Ross and the entire team at Physioplus!”

Lisa Wren

Bruce Cook – previous hard core triathlete

“Most highly recommended for physio and rehab. Ross is a knowledgable and caring practitioner, going above and beyond to help you. Easy going personality and very supportive. Ross is easy to talk to with incredible results. A+ from me.”

Bruce Cook
– previous hard core triathlete