At some points in our lives, we can experience stiff and painful neck. Neck pain is a common complaint. We may hear our family members, friends, colleagues often complaining about it.  And, It can happen due to a variety of reasons.

You might end up having neck pain due to muscle tension and strains such as having poor posture. It is also the result of spending a longer period of time over your desk without changing position or hunching over your computer. Also, you’ve got a bad sleeping position.

Neck pain may also exist when you got into injury such as car accidents. A sports injury may also be one of the reasons for its occurrence. Also, this can be triggered by worn neck joints, nerve compression, and certain types of diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. In some instances, it can be a sign of serious disease. So, it’s important to have yourself checked by your healthcare provider.

There are numerous reasons why neck pain can occur. And, did you know that neck pain under musculoskeletal pain can be treated by Intramuscular Stimulation or IMS?  Before we discuss how IMS works for neck pain, let us first uncover the key information about this technique.

What is Intramuscular Stimulation?

Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS) is a technique used by Physiotherapists with IMS certification. It’s a technique that uses a very fine monofilament needle which is inserted into a muscle to release or lengthen muscles which are causing chronic musculoskeletal pain. The needles used are the same ones in acupuncture. These needles are directly inserted within the affected muscle.

Intramuscular Stimulation started in the 1970s when Dr. Chan Gunn has developed this technique while he was working for BC Worker’s Compensation Board. This innovative discovery was an answer to his experience of having patients suffering from chronic pain that never goes away even though they are not suffering from major injuries. He spent his 30 years looking for physical science. And, he discovered that physical pain is not due by an injury but an alteration in the sensitivity in the nervous system. He also highlighted that with this technique, there is no need for open surgery.

How Intramuscular Stimulation can Help Neck Pain?

By inserting a very fine needle, it releases the tension in the neck, shoulders, and upper back muscles.  Oftentimes, these muscles get too tight for individuals with neck pain, By applying this, it can reduce neck pain, promotes natural healing, restoring function, and be able to improve mobility.

To improve neck mobility and reduce pain, a Physiotherapist may combine it with manual therapy or other treatment with specific exercises and education on proper posture. There is no need for surgery with this type of treatment.

Does Intramuscular Stimulation Truly Work for Neck Pain?

A study published in A Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Therapy shows that Intramuscular Stimulation is effective in patients with neck pain that has recently started. In this study, 17 patients wherein 53% of these are female were randomly assigned to the first group with a single session of dry needling both at 10 minutes and 1 week. At the baseline of pretreatment,  data that were collected are pressure pain thresholds over the C5-6 zygapophyseal joint, second metacarpal, and tibialis anterior muscle; neck pain intensity; and cervical spine range-of-motion. Results show that patients being treated by a single session of dry needling have experienced a great decrease in neck pain, a greater increase in pressure pain threshold, and improvement in cervical range of motion than those who did not receive any intervention.  Mejuto-Vázquez MJ, et al, (2014)

In a review published in the same journal, it examines the effectiveness of dry needling in patients with neck and upper back pain. It found about 12 high-quality articles that support the effectiveness of dry needling than placebo or sham treatment. It is effective in reducing neck pain. Results can immediately be seen after treatment and after 4 weeks of post-treatment. Kietrys DM, et. al, (2013)

Does Intramuscular Stimulation Hurt?

Some patients may find Intramuscular Stimulation is more painful compared to acupuncture.  They may also find it unpleasant or experience discomfort due to the direct insertion of a needle within the affected area or specifically within the neck muscles. But, this process will take only a short period of time – only a few seconds.  You may experience discomfort immediately after the session.

The goal of inserting needles directly to the area is to stimulate the muscles. It needs to trigger the reaction at the nerve. And, this will then able to reset the nervous system response unlike with a normal muscle it does not respond the same way.

Take in mind that a thorough assessment is done by a Physiotherapist before applying IMS.

Are there any side-effects?

After having an IMS treatment, you may feel some soreness within the affected area. This is usually mild and may go away within 24 hours.

Also, to avoid side-effects, this treatment is only recommended to patients having chronic musculoskeletal pain and not applicable for other types of pain such as caused by cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, or any chronic inflammatory pain. Also,  this is also not advisable as a treatment plan for pregnant and those who have recent surgery.

Other Conditions Treated by IMS

IMS is highly recommended for patients having chronic musculoskeletal and neuropathic pain. Aside from neck pain, it’s also effective for treating conditions such as:

  • Low back pain
  • Golfers or tennis elbow
  • Carpal tunnel Syndrome
  • Chronic whiplash
  • Sciatica
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Achilles Tendonitis
  •  Jaw and TMJ Pain
  •  Shoulder and Hip impingement syndromes
  •  Myofascial Pain Syndrome
  •  Chronic postural pain
  •  Iliotibial Band Syndrome
  •  Torticollis
  •  Spinal Disc Problems
  •  Plantar Fasciitis
  •  Piriformis Syndrome
  •  Patello-femoral Syndrome
  •  Chronic Tendonitis or Bursitis
  •  Repetitive Strain Injuries
  •  Shin Splints
  •  Trigger Finger

There are still more conditions that can be treated by IMS, we only feature the most common conditions that can be treated by IMS.

A Note for Intramuscular Stimulation Technique

Since Intramuscular Stimulation originated in treating chronic musculoskeletal pain, it cannot help with chronic inflammatory pain. IMS originated a treatment for chronic musculoskeletal pain. Therefore, it is not advisable to apply it for chronic inflammatory pain or types of pain.
This type of treatment is also not advisable for patients experiencing pain due to cancer, arthritis, or other type of diseases such as diabetes. In addition, pregnant women and individuals recovering from surgeries and infections are also not ideal for IMS.

The Role of Physiotherapist in Coquitlam  in Treating Neck Pain

A Physiotherapist is trained and certified to handle the treatment for neck pain using IMS  – making sure that they can apply it effectively and safely.  Every treatment plan is started with a complete and thorough assessment – to know the root cause of the condition. After a thorough assessment, it will then provide a plan containing a combination of techniques such as manual therapy, exercises, and education.

But, you have to make sure that if your neck pain has just started it is essential that you must seek a Physiotherapist. Don’t wait for your condition to get worse. The earliest diagnosis is essential in alleviating the pain.

Physiotherapists may often work with your doctor to provide the best treatment for you.

Is IMS an appropriate Treatment Technique for Me?

We have discussed earlier that IMS is effective in treating musculoskeletal or neuromuscular pain. But, to find out if IMS is an appropriate technique for your condition, it is essential that you must ask a licensed physiotherapist.

You may book for an initial assessment for physiotherapy in Coquitlam and let’s find out if our Intramuscular Stimulation technique is ideal for your condition.

Book for an initial assessment here.

Evergreen is Everywhere for Everyone – Let’s Help You Achieve Your Health and Wellness Goals

At Evergreen Rehab & Wellness – Coquitlam, we have Physiotherapists that will help you achieve your health and wellness goals.

We don’t only have Physiotherapists in Coquitlam, we also have Physiotherapists in Langley that are always ready to provide patients in these areas with custom and high-quality care.


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