Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS) – Gunn Method


Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS) – Gunn Method

What is IMS?

Everyone will, at some time or another, suffer from soft tissue pain or a disability such as headache, neck pain of unknown origin such as a crick in the neck, backache, fibromyalgia, whiplash, repetitive strain injury or some forms of early arthritis.

Soft tissue supersensitivity pain requires desensitization and this usually involves some form of physical therapy – a “hands-on” approach from specially trained doctors and physiotherapists. One of the most effective treatments is a technique known as Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS). IMS was developed over 20 years ago by Dr. Chan Gunn, a world renowned pioneer in the research and treatment of chronic soft tissue pain. His methods are taught at many universities and pain centres throughout the world.

IMS can loosely be described as a highly advanced form of acupuncture, but in reality it is much more complex. IMS involves using acupuncture needles to specifically target injured muscles, which have contracted and become shortened from distress. These shortened muscles cause pain not only in the affected muscle itself, but also from the resulting stress on surrounding tendons and joints. IMS treatment causes the muscle to “grasp” the needle, which in turn forces the shortened muscle to release, providing relief from pain.

Janice doing back IMS treatment

IMS is a system of dry needling that is based on a radiculopathy model for chronic pain. Unlike acupuncture, IMS requires a physical examination and diagnosis, and it treats specific anatomic entities selected according to physical signs. Examination, diagnosis, rationale for selection of points for treatment, as well as progress of therapy, are all determined according to physical signs of radiculopathy.

Radiculopathy Model

The physiologic phenomenon of “pain following neuropathy”, first identified by Dr. Gunn, is now referred to as “neuropathic pain”. It occurs when nerves become overly sensitive due to an improper reaction to irritation, and produce sensations of pain even though there is often no sign of any physical cause. Medically referred to as “supersensitivity,” this condition responds well to IMS treatments by desensitizing the affected nerves and muscles. IMS muscle structure

Surgery and other traditional methods cannot treat muscle shortening and supersensitivity, while painkillers serve only to temporarily mask the pain. IMS can provide relief for chronic pain when all other methods of treatment fail. There are no side effects, and the technique is unequalled for finding shortening in deep muscle tissues that has previously gone undiscovered.

The initial appointment consists of a complete assessment of the patient, and thoroughly addresses a wide range of questions and physical tests to determine the source of the pain and the best approach for treatment. Treatments are usually scheduled on a weekly basis, depending on the nature of the complaint.

The effects of IMS are cumulative, with each treatment providing a measure of healing until eventually the condition is alleviated and the pain ceases. Some patients have remained pain free for over 20 years, others return occasionally for treatments on a “maintenance” basis. The number of treatments required depends on several factors including the age of the injury and the condition of the nerves. Each person’s body is unique and responds in a different way to IMS – some people heal faster than others.


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