If you’re suffering from a new or chronic injury and are looking for relief, you may be looking into IMS physical therapy. Although it’s often confused with acupuncture, this type of physiotherapy is unique in many ways including approach, technique, and philosophy. Let’s take a closer look at the differences between IMS and acupuncture to help determine which is best for you.

How many needles do you need?

Perhaps the most distinguishable difference between IMS physical therapy and acupuncture is the number of needles used in the therapeutic process. With acupuncture, the therapist will use several needles placed at various points on the body and leave them inserted, at the same time, for upwards of 30 minutes. Acupuncture needles are not typically placed as deeply as IMS needles and often have a slightly thinner gage. During IMS therapy, an individual needle is inserted and removed quite swiftly. Although the therapist may choose to leave the needle in for a moment to encourage optimal stimulation of the muscle, the needle will be removed after a few seconds. Even if the physiotherapist requires more than one needle insertion overall, only one will be inserted at a time, and all will be focused on a particular muscle that has sustained injury.

Reducing inflammation or resolving an injury

When considering which physical therapy is right for you, it’s important to define your goals for your body. Are you looking to improve your overall health and wellness from collective bodily wear and tear? Or are you hoping to treat a specific injury or reduce pain in the injured area? Acupuncture takes the lower and slower approach, aiming to reduce inflammation through the body, increase blood flow to support important areas of your body, and support pain management by balancing your central nervous system. The goals of IMS physical therapy are more direct and targeted toward specific injuries and conditions such as whiplash, sciatica, tennis elbow, and migraines. The needle is inserted directly into the problem muscle to encourage it to extend and then release the area that is triggering nerve pain.

Frequency and feel of the treatment

Because acupuncture is a more holistic approach to health and is less invasive than IMS, you can receive acupuncture treatment once even twice a week as desired. Like massage and other forms of physical therapy, acupuncture treatment should provide a steadily improving quality of life. With IMS, the recommendation is to receive treatment once every one to two weeks, for a total of approximately 6 to 10 sessions. Acupuncture is said to be a very relaxing and reflective experience. Many people look forward to their acupuncture sessions as a time to take a pause, center themselves, and focus on their physical and mental health. While IMS should not be stressful in any way, it can be slightly uncomfortable during the needle insertion process and the patient may feel tweaks or twinges of the targeted muscle. The day after treatment there may be some initial stiffness, but this can be helped with stretching and movement.

Whether you are looking to improve your overall health with time-tested therapies such as acupuncture, or you hope to heal a painful injury with a proven treatment like IMS physical therapy, it’s important to find a knowledgeable and reputable physiotherapy clinic that offers these forms of therapy. Working with a professional that can listen to your needs and come up with a treatment plan is an important step towards a path of healing that can restore balance to your mind and body.