IMS (Intramuscular Stimulation or Dry Needling)


Dry needling is a technique physiotherapists use for the treatment of pain and movement impairments. The technique uses a "dry" needle, one without medication or injection, inserted through the skin into a trigger point of a tight muscle.


Other terms commonly used to describe dry needling, include trigger point dry needling, and intramuscular stimulation.


Dry needling is not acupuncture, a practice based on traditional Chinese medicine and performed by acupuncturists. Dry needling is a part of modern Western medicine principles, and supported by research.


What is a Trigger Point?


A trigger point is a taut band of skeletal muscle located within a larger muscle group. Trigger points can be tender to the touch, and touching a trigger point may cause pain to other parts of the body.


What Kind of Needles Are Used?


Dry needling involves a thin filiform needle that penetrates the skin and stimulates underlying myofascial trigger points and muscular and connective tissues. The needle allows a physiotherapist to target tissues that are not manually palpable.


Physiotherapists adhere to infection control precautions and use single-use, sterile needles. The sterile needles are disposed of in a medical sharps container.


Why Dry Needling?


In cases when dry needling is used by physiotherapists, it is typically one technique that's part of a larger treatment plan.


Physiotherapists use dry needling with the goal of releasing or de-activating trigger points to relieve pain or improve range of motion. Research supports that dry needling improves pain control, reduces muscle tension, and normalizes dysfunctions of the motor end plates, the sites at which nerve impulses are transmitted to muscles. This can help speed up the patient's return to active rehabilitation.


As part of their entry level university education, physiotherapists are well educated in anatomy and therapeutic treatment of the body. Physiotherapists who perform dry needling supplement that knowledge by obtaining specific postgraduate education and training. The physiotherapists at Active Living Physiotherapy have postgraduate training in Dry Needling through either Kinetacore or LearnIMS.

If Functional Dry Needling is a proposed treatment for you, the risks, benefits and other treatment options will be discussed and any questions that you have will be answered prior to obtaining informed consent for needling.

What to expect:


You may feel a muscle ache or cramp (‘twitch response’) when the needle is inserted into the trigger point. This sensation may be felt locally or along a pain referral pattern that is reproduced away from the treatment site. It is normal and common to feel muscle soreness for 24-48 hours, similar to when you participate in a new physical activity. This typically feels different than the symptoms for which you are seeking treatment. Post-treatment soreness can be lessened by applying heat (warm bath or hot pack) or using ice, movement and/or stretches (as directed by your physiotherapist.)


*IMS/Dry Needling treatment performed by a Registered Physiotherapist is covered by many extended health insurance plans. Active Living Physiotherapy can direct-bill most extended health insurance companies.