We often have patients asking about the difference between acupuncture and IMS treatment. Both methods are invasive, involving the insertion of a fine, one-time use, metal needle into the body. It is how the needles are utilized that makes the difference between the two treatments. The issues each treatment addresses also differ.


In acupuncture, needles are inserted into specific points on the body for 20 to 30 minutes, in order to affect the nervous system. There may be some slight discomfort at insertion, but very little, if any, after the needles are in place.

The insertion points are selected based on the traditional acupuncture points of Chinese medicine, points that are designed to release the flow of energy, or qi in channels called meridians, throughout the body. There are 14 major channels in the body:

  • Large Intestine Channel: used to relieve pain and treat inflammatory and feverish diseases
  • Lung Channel: used to treat disorders of the upper body (headache, neck stiffness, cough, asthma, sore throat, etc)
  • Stomach Channels: used to help digestive disorders, anemia, immune deficient, and fatigue
  • Spleen Channel: used to help digestive, hormonal, and immune disorders
  • Gallbladder Channel: used to treat acute disorders (common cold, influenza, headache, neck pain, and fever) and lower blood pressure
  • Liver Channel: used to balance emotional energy, regulate menstruation, reduce pain in the chest, treat eye disorders, alleviate headaches, and lower blood pressure
  • Pericardium Channel: used to help cardiac disorders, nausea, vomiting, spasms, and convulsions
  • Heart Channel: used to treat variety of mental disorders (insomnia, hysteria, depression, etc), heart disease, and fatigue
  • Urinary Bladder Channel: used to treat back pain, hip impairment, muscular atrophy, leg and abdominal pain, and nausea
  • Kidney Channel: used to treat sore throat, toothache, deafness, tinnitus, dizziness, asthma, thirst, insomnia, lower back pain, and menstrual irregularities
  • Triple Burner Channel: used to treatment disorders of the fingers, hands, arms, neck, ears, cheeks, and top of the head
  • Small Intestine Channel: used to treat mental disorders, stiffness and pain in the neck, seizures, night sweats, and fevers
  • Governing Vessel: used to treat various mental disorders, headaches, vertigo, ringing in the ears, and nasal obstruction


IMS (Intramuscular Stimulation)

In intramuscular stimulation, also known a Gunn IMS, needles are inserted directly into the muscle to release tension and treat chronic pain of a neuropathic origin at the source of the pain. Needles are normally inserted and then immediately removed; however, some may stay in momentarily. When the belly of the muscle is stimulated by the needle, it will often contract, or “twitch” one time. This is the ideal outcome as it indicates that optimal muscle relaxation has been achieved.

When the needle first enters the muscle the pain should be minimal, however, you may feel some cramping when the muscle grasps the needle. The severity of this pain will vary depending on the severity of the muscle shortening, easing into a feeling of relaxation.

IMS is often used when chronic musculoskeletal pain persists with no obvious injury of inflammation, due to muscle shortening, which causes pain in muscles, tendons, their connective tissue attachments, and joints. Symptoms include pain without a known injury or recalled injury, pain gradually intensifying, shooting or stabbing pain, and pain experienced with a normally painless activity or stimulus. These symptoms typically occur when nerves malfunction following minor irritation, causing normal, harmless signals to be exaggerated and misperceived as painful ones.

Common ailments treated by IMS include headaches, backaches, tennis elbow, frozen shoulder, chronic muscle pain, and other soft tissue complaints.

For more information about Acupuncture and IMS, or to book an appointment for treatment, please call us at 604-474-1276.