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What is Intramuscular Stimulation or Functional Dry Needling?

Intramuscular stimulation (IMS) or Functional Dry Needling (FDN) involves inserting a tiny monofilament needle into a muscle in order to release shortened bands of muscles tissue and decrease trigger point activity. Dry needling is an effective treatment for acute and chronic pain, rehabilitation from injury, and even injury prevention. The definition of dry needling as per the American Academy of Orthopaedic Manual Physical therapists is described as the following:


Dry needling is a neurophysiological evidence-based treatment technique that requires effective manual assessment of the neuromuscular system. Physical therapists are well trained to utilize dry needling in conjunction with manual physical therapy interventions. Research supports that dry needling improves pain control, reduces muscle tension, normalizes biochemical and electrical dysfunction of motor end plates, and facilitates an accelerated return to active rehabilitation

Is Intramuscular Stimulation or dry needling the same as acupuncture?

This is not traditional Chinese Acupuncture, but is instead a Western medicine based type of treatment. IMS is primarily directed at myofascial trigger points located within taut bands of muscle tissue. Traditional acupuncture uses points located along meridians. Meridians are channels of energy flow that make up a conceptual network of pathways throughout the entire body.

What will I feel with IMS or FDN?

Most patients will not even feel the needle penetrate the skin, but once it has and is advanced into the muscle, the feeling of discomfort can vary drastically from patient to patient. Usually a healthy muscle feels very little discomfort from insertion of the needle; however if the muscle is sensitive, shortened or has active trigger points within it, the subject may feel a sensation much like a muscle cramp. This sensation is often referred to as a twitch response.

Is IMS or FDN an appropriate treatment technique for me?

IMS or FDN can be used to treat a large variety of musculoskeletal conditions but can also be used to treat neuromuscular conditions such as increased tone. To find out if IMS will be right for you, contact one of our physiotherapy locations to book an initial assessment.

How does it work?

Nerves allow muscles to fire and when there is an altered relationship between how the nerve fires the muscle, pain and weakness can result. The insertion of the needle allows muscles to work with less pain.

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