Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS)

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Gunn Intramuscular Stimulation – IMS

What is Gunn Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS)?

It is highly effective on problems such as back pain, headaches, tennis elbow and frozen shoulder – often with fast and dramatic results.

Gunn IMS, of which our back pain specialist Antony Causton is the only practitioner south of London, is a technique that uses small needles to restore peripheral nerve health and aid back pain, spinal decompression and recovery. Over time due to gravity or following an injury the spine is put under compressive pressure. This compression affects spinal joints, discs and nerves. A nerve under pressure isn’t a happy nerve and our modern habits of long periods of sitting puts our backs under a lot of pressure.

The nerve supplies organs, bones and in the sporting world, more importantly, muscles and thus tendons, which attach muscles to bones. Less information to a muscle from a compressed nerve causes the muscle to become oversensitive or tight. This causes pain in itself, as the muscle is always in a state of contraction and the tight muscle also causes a increased pull on the tendon. As tendons are only able to stretch to 4% of their resting length, this can result in tendon problems such as tendonitis as the tendon tears and becomes inflamed when continually exposed to tension forces.

How does IMS work for especially back pain?

The causes of back pain and other chronic problems don’t always show up on expensive imaging such as MRI scans. This is because the pain is often caused by nerve dysfunction as opposed to structural damage. Gunn IMS relies on a thorough physical examination of the patient to find the physical signs of nerve dysfunction pain. Distressed or injured muscles can become contracted and shortened. The Gunn IMS practitioner uses thin acupuncture needles to target deep inside these muscles. Often the needling site is close to the spine where the nerve root may have become irritated and supersensitive, causing not only back pain but different problems in many different parts of the body.

Spinal muscles attach to the spine and have a big effect on the compression of the spine and all structures relating to it. Gunn IMS triggers a response within the spinal muscles that causes the muscle to contract and then relax. When spinal muscles are encouraged to relax through the use of IMS, decompression of the spine occurs, including decreased pressure on spinal joints and most importantly spinal nerves, resulting in reduced back pain.

Don’t worry: there are also other ways to help you with your pain if you are not a fan of needles. Contact us to learn more!

Decreased pressure on spinal and peripheral nerves causes an increase in axoplasmic flow (flow of information, blood and hormones down the nerve). Restoration of flow down the nerve allows nerves, joints and muscles / tendons to work more efficiently through the resulting increased flow of information and blood.

Compression on the spine directly can be linked to such things as arthritis of spinal joints, disc herniations and aforementioned secondary problems such as tendon and muscle dysfunction. Gunn IMS can be applied around the spine but also peripherally into and around other joints such as the shoulder, hip, elbow, wrist and knee. Subsequently, Antony uses this technique on a large number of his patients as it is the most effective and quickest way to get patients back to full function or self managing.

  1. A stretch receptor in the muscle is stimulated, producing a reflex relaxation (lengthening)
  2. The needle causes a small injury that draws blood to the area, initiating the natural healing process
  3. The treatment creates an electrical potential in the muscle to make the nerve function normally again

Penetration of a normal muscle with an acupuncture needle is painless. During dry needling, a shortened, supersensitive muscle will ‘grasp’ the needle in what can be described as a cramping sensation. This is followed either by an immediate feeling of release from pain or a dull ache that gradually wears off to give long lasting relief.

Is Gunn IMS the same as acupuncture?

Gunn IMS uses acupuncture needles because they are the thinnest implements available but it is grounded in Western Medical Science, and has a solid foundation in its radiculopathic model of pain, which is now supported by many experts in the field.

After your first session the practitioner can give you an idea of how many sessions it will take to treat your problem, whether it is chronic back pain of pain caused by an injury. For most patients, this is a matter of weeks or a few months. Even in chronic conditions Gunn IMS can produce long lasting and often permanent results.

Another distinct advantage of Intramuscular Stimulation is that the therapist will not be asking you to come back every month for ‘maintenance’, but will be on hand for any other problems and concerns that you may encounter.

We advice you to first book an initial assessment session with our back pain specialist Antony Causton who can advise you on the most suitable treatment form. To book an assessment, please contact Reach Physiotherapy on 01273 732 835 or email You can also book appointments easily online!