Photo of acupuncture needles in use

Physiotherapists can perform dry needling using both IMS (Intramuscular Stimulation) and acupuncture techniques. Each involves inserting a thin needle into a specific body part, however, similarities end there as philosophies differ between the two practices.

IMS is a form of dry needling pioneered by Dr. Chan Gunn at UBC. In IMS, thin needles are inserted into specific muscles to treat chronic soft tissue and nerve pain. Inserted needles often trigger a muscle contraction (grabbing) and are typically not left in for more than a minute. Inserting the needle “resets the muscle,” helping to alleviate pain and restore function.

Acupuncture involves inserting thin needles into points along the body called meridians, which are based on ancient Chinese medicine and represent different organs in the body. The philosophy is to maintain balance and energy flow (Qi) through the body using varying points. Needles are typically left in for 15-30 minutes.

Although the needles are similar in size, the practices are very different. The good news? Our physiotherapists offer both!

Talk to your physiotherapist to find out whether acupuncture and/or IMS may be right for you.