IMS and Massage Therapy: The Ultimate Pain Relief Combination

IMS and Massage Therapy

Table of Contents

Chronic pain can be a debilitating condition, significantly impacting your quality of life. If you’re searching for effective relief, Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS) and massage therapy offer a powerful combination to address the root causes of your pain and promote lasting healing. Discover how these complementary therapies work, the conditions they treat, and what you need to know to find the right practitioners.

Chronic Pain Relief: IMS & Massage

  • IMS uses needles to target deep muscle pain.
  • Massage reduces tension and promotes healing.
  • Combined, they offer powerful pain relief.

Conditions Treated

  • Back/neck pain, injuries, headaches, and more.

Finding Practitioners

  • Check insurance.
  • Ask for referrals.
  • Inquire about experience.

What to Expect

  • Initial assessment.
  • Possible minor soreness or fatigue.

What is IMS?


IMS and Massage Therapy


Intramuscular Stimulation Therapy (IMS) is a specialized, evidence-based treatment for chronic muscle pain, defined as pain that has persisted for more than three months. Developed by Dr. Chan Gunn, IMS is based on the concept of neuropathic pain, where dysfunction within the nervous system contributes to a cycle of muscle shortening, pain, and further nerve irritation.

IMS utilizes fine acupuncture needles to target specific muscle bands that have become shortened, tight, and hypersensitive. These bands, commonly known as trigger points, often create persistent pain patterns and can even refer pain to other areas of the body. They can develop due to factors such as injury, repetitive strain, postural imbalances, or stress.

IMS treatment is based on the principles of neuroplasticity – the brain and nervous system’s inherent ability to change and adapt in response to stimuli. By specifically stimulating the affected muscle with a needle, IMS encourages several beneficial responses:

  • Trigger point release: 

The insertion of the needle causes a reflexive relaxation response in the muscle, helping to restore normal length and tension.

  • Nerve desensitization: 

IMS lessens the sensitivity of the nervous system, reducing pain signaling and breaking the pain cycle.

  • Improved circulation: 

The stimulation increases blood flow to the area, promoting healing and reducing inflammation.


Want to learn more about IMS Therapy?

  • Discover the in-depth science and specific benefits of IMS for pain relief in our blog “Beyond Needles: The Science and Benefits of IMS Therapy.”


What is Massage Therapy?


IMS and Massage Therapy


Massage therapy is the practice of applying manual techniques to manipulate muscles and other soft tissues of the body. Registered Massage Therapists (RMTs) are regulated healthcare professionals with extensive training in anatomy, physiology, pathology, and various massage techniques. Their goal is to reduce muscle tension, increase blood circulation, enhance healing, promote relaxation, improve range of motion, and alleviate both physical and emotional stress.

Massage therapy works through several mechanisms:

  • Mechanical effects: 

Direct pressure and manipulation of muscles and soft tissues can break up adhesions, improve tissue flexibility, and relieve tension.

  • Circulatory effects: 

Massage increases blood flow and lymphatic drainage, aiding in nutrient delivery and the removal of waste products, thereby reducing inflammation and enhancing the healing environment.

  • Neurological effects: 

Massage helps stimulate the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, and can also influence the nervous system to promote deep relaxation.

  • Psychological effects: 

The human touch and calming environment during massage can ease anxiety, stress, and depression, which all play a significant role in the pain experience.


How IMS and Massage Therapy Work Together


IMS and Massage Therapy


IMS and massage therapy are a truly synergistic combination in the fight against chronic pain. They work together in several ways:

  • IMS addresses the root cause: 

IMS pinpoints the core source of muscle-related pain deep within the tissues. It offers targeted treatment by stimulating the release of deep-seated trigger points, which disrupts the pain cycle and initiates the healing process.

  • Massage therapy extends the benefits: 

Massage therapy assists in reducing inflammation, improving blood circulation to the treated area, and furthering the relaxation effects begun by IMS. This helps optimize recovery, extending the duration of pain relief and promoting long-term healing.

  • Complementary approaches:

While IMS treatment focuses very specifically on individual trigger points, massage therapy can address larger muscle groups and the overall tension patterns in your body that may contribute to pain. This dual approach creates a comprehensive treatment strategy.

  • Mental and physical relief: 

Both massage and IMS have been shown to help ease the stress and anxiety often associated with chronic pain. By easing your emotional burden, these therapies can further contribute to your overall wellbeing, allowing you to engage more fully in your rehabilitation and life.

Conditions that Benefit from IMS and Massage Therapy


IMS and Massage Therapy


The combination of IMS and massage therapy offers potential relief for a wide range of pain conditions, including:

  • Chronic back and neck pain: 

Muscle tension, trigger points, and postural imbalances are major contributors to back and neck pain. IMS can target the specific muscles involved, while massage addresses broader muscle groups and relieves overall tension patterns.

  • Headaches and migraines: 

Targeted treatment to neck and shoulder muscles with IMS and massage can reduce the frequency and intensity of tension-type headaches and migraines by easing muscular contributors.

  • Sports injuries: 

IMS can speed recovery from muscle strains, sprains, and other injuries by addressing underlying trigger points. Massage supports this by reducing inflammation, promoting tissue healing, and restoring function.

  • Tendonitis and overuse injuries: 

These conditions often stem from trigger points and repetitive stress. IMS and massage work together to address the cause, decrease pain, and promote overall healing.

  • Fibromyalgia: 

Widespread muscle pain, fatigue, and cognitive difficulties characterize fibromyalgia. Both IMS and massage can improve muscle pain and sleep quality, making a positive impact on how those with fibromyalgia manage their condition.

  • Sciatica: 

IMS can release trigger points contributing to nerve compression, while massage can alleviate tension in the surrounding muscles and ease nerve irritation.

  • Arthritis: 

Combined therapies can decrease inflammation, improve joint mobility, and manage pain associated with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

  • Post-surgical pain: 

IMS and massage can decrease post-op pain, enhance tissue healing, and reduce the risk of scar tissue formation and muscle compensations after surgery.

  • Whiplash injuries: 

IMS helps address hidden muscle dysfunction stemming from whiplash. Additionally, massage can ease whiplash-associated headaches, stiffness, and pain.

  • Plantar fasciitis: 

Trigger points in the calf muscles can contribute to this painful foot condition. IMS helps release these trigger points, and massage can ease inflammation in the plantar fascia itself.

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome: 

IMS can address tight forearm muscles that may compress the median nerve. Massage supports this by reducing inflammation and enhancing circulation in the area.

  • TMJ dysfunction:

Muscle tension in the jaw and neck can lead to TMJ problems. IMS and massage can target these muscles to relieve pain and improve jaw function.

Finding the Right Practitioners for IMS and Massage Therapy

  • Insurance coverage: 

While some insurance plans cover IMS and massage therapy, the extent of coverage can vary significantly. It’s essential to contact your insurance provider directly to inquire about your specific benefits. They can inform you about coverage details, deductibles, or any potential pre-authorization requirements.

  • Referrals: 

    Reflex Physiotherapy Langley

Physicians or other healthcare providers (like physiotherapists) often refer patients for IMS or massage. However, you may be able to self-refer to these practitioners if you believe you’d benefit from this treatment approach. If you are seeking massage therapy in Langley, be sure to ask about practitioners specializing in this area.



Is IMS and Massage Therapy Right for You?

  • Emphasize a tailored approach: 

It’s important to understand that chronic pain conditions are complex, and not everyone will respond identically to IMS and massage therapy. A comprehensive assessment with your IMS practitioner and RMT, along with an open discussion about your treatment options, will help determine if this combination is the best plan for you.

  • List relevant factors: 

When deciding if this approach is right for you, consider these important factors:

    • The severity and duration of your pain
    • Previous treatments you’ve attempted and their outcomes
    • Any underlying health conditions you may have
    • Your personal goals for pain relief and achieving better function in your daily life


What to Expect During the IMS and Massage Therapy’s Treatment:

  • Initial consultation: 

Your initial consultations with both the IMS practitioner and the RMT will likely include:

    • Detailed history taking: They’ll discuss your pain patterns, medical history, lifestyle, and other relevant factors.
    • Physical examination: This includes a postural assessment, range of motion testing, and palpation (hands-on examination) to identify areas of tightness or trigger points.
    • Discussion of your goals and expectations: Your practitioners want to understand what you hope to achieve through treatment.
  • Possible side effects: 

It’s common to experience some soreness or tenderness after IMS treatment, and perhaps mild fatigue after a massage session. These effects are usually temporary. Always discuss any concerns or unusual side effects with your practitioners.

  • Treatment frequency: 

A general guideline is that IMS treatments may start weekly, potentially spacing out as your condition improves. Massage might be suggested weekly or bi-weekly, with adjustments made throughout your treatment plan based on your progress.


Conclusion: The Power of Combining Therapies

Chronic pain doesn’t have to limit your life. If you’ve struggled to find lasting relief, exploring the combination of IMS and massage therapy could be a positive turning point. IMS offers a targeted approach to address deep muscle dysfunction, while massage extends the benefits and promotes overall healing. Together, they form a powerful strategy for tackling chronic pain, reducing your symptoms, and improving your life. If you’re in the Langley area, consider consulting a practitioner specializing in Physiotherapy Langley for additional treatment options and a personalized rehabilitation plan

Take the Next Step

If you’re ready to explore the potential of IMS and massage therapy, take these important actions:

  • Consult your doctor: Discuss if this treatment approach is right for your specific condition.
  • Research practitioners: Find qualified IMS practitioners and RMTs in your area.
  • Ask questions: Learn about their experience, treatment philosophies, and how they work with other healthcare professionals.

Remember, you are not alone on this journey. By taking proactive steps toward better pain management, you can invest in your health and reclaim the quality of life you deserve.

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