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Acupuncture versus IMS (Dry needling)

What is IMS/Dry Needling?

Intramuscular stimulation (IMS), also known as dry needling, is the needling of contracted muscles that are causing pain.  The needle stimulates the nerve of that muscle, causing it to release/relax.  It can provide the instant release of a muscle and is useful for accessing deep muscles that are difficult to reach by manual therapy (eg massage).

How did IMS originate?

IMS was founded by Dr Chann Gunn, a Canadian, born in Malaysia.  Dr Gunn had a special interest in the study and treatment of pain in British Columbia.  His IMS technique began in 1973 and coincided with his growing interest in Acupuncture from 1974, when he noticed most Acupuncture points related to nerve-muscle junctions. 

How is Acupuncture different to IMS?

IMS needles are usually thicker than the needles used by an Acupuncturist.  IMS compared to Acupuncture is a forceful needling technique.  With IMS the needle is inserted very deeply into the painful muscle and moved up and down until a response is elicited (twitch or fasciculation) from the muscle.  Often it can be a brief painful experience and residual soreness is common.

How is an Acupuncturist different to an IMS practitioner?

An IMS practitioner uses IMS in addition to their main scope of practice.  Their courses vary from 200 to 400 hours.  IMS is focused on pain relief.

Acupuncturist have 3-5 years of training in Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine.  They understand the basics of Western anatomy and physiology and are trained to look at your condition from an environmental and systems approach.

An Acupuncturist develops a comprehensive picture of your health (strengths and weaknesses in your systems) to treat not only the immediate problem that brings you in for a treatment, but to address underlying issues that will improve your overall health outcomes over time

These underlying issues can be a contributing factor to your pain. I treat your pain and your health at the same time.

Can Bow Valley Acupuncture achieve the same results as IMS?

Yes of course, Bow Valley Acupuncture can use several advanced Acupuncture techniques to relieve your pain and/or muscle tension.  These techniques are gentler than IMS and often does not involve needling into areas of pain or discomfort!

Bow Valley Acupuncture may combine the Motor Point technique into a treatment for your pain or muscle tension.  The Motor Point technique addresses muscle imbalances, it can reduce muscle tension and spasm as well as help strengthen muscle weakness. 

Many Motor Points overlap traditional Acupuncture points that are located where the motor nerve enters the muscle.  Used with TCM-Acupuncture the treatment is very effective.

What does this all mean?

Through the study of modern biomedicine today we see TCM-Acupuncture has most likely been stimulating the nerves of muscles as means of treatment for 1000’s of years without understanding the nervous system as we do today.

It is amazing what the Chinese knew 1000s of years ago – they had a very sophisticated understanding of the body compared to the Europeans at the same time.

As the “language” of TCM is so different to Western Medicine, of course they did not call it IMS, but had similar techniques such as needling an “Ashi” point or “black turtle seeking for hole”!

TCM-Acupuncture can treat your pain or muscle tension effectively and comfortably.

Acupuncture FAQ

How many treatments do I need?

I am so glad you asked!  This is a great question, one I find very important to take the time to answer.

Treatment frequency is vital in achieving the best results.  Acupuncture treatments have a compound effect on your body and it is important to continue building on that cumulative effect until your symptoms are relieved.

Acupuncture is a process, similar to training for a race or studying for an exam, you will get better results if you train or study 2-3 times per week than if you only do so once or less per week.

Consistent and frequent treatments in the beginning is key to achieving your health goals and making the most of your invested money.  By starting with frequent treatments your overall treatment time is shortened.

If I treat you today and you wait until your symptoms or pain returns for your next treatment then we are back to square one.  If treatments are too far apart you will be stuck in this seesaw of your symptoms improving, then getting worse, then improving and getting worse.  I want your symptoms to keep improving and improving with each treatment!

As you continue to improve I continually reassess your treatment plan.  Treatments are gradually spaced further apart, so long as your symptoms are improving and staying at that level of improvement between appointments.  Once your symptoms are managed or gone, regular “tune up” treatments may be required depending on your condition.

For acute conditions such as a painful injury, treatments can be 2-3 times per week for the first 2 weeks and then possibly weekly as your progress is continually assessed.

Chronic conditions often take more time to treat.  New patients may begin a course of 1-2 treatments per week depending on how severe their condition is.

Often Chinese herbs, diet therapy and lifestyle modifications are recommended to help accelerate your progress.

How do I prepare for my first treatment?

It is very simple – arrive as you are!

But here are some helpful tips:

  • Most often I only need to treat from your arms and legs. To avoid undressing it helps to wear loose clothing over your arms and legs or shorts and a t-shirt/tank top.
  • If you were unable to complete the Intake Form emailed to all new patients and provide us with your Insurer details for direct billing please arrive 15-20mins early with:
  • Personal Health Care Number
  • List of medication and supplements you are taking
  • Health Insurance card for Direct Billing
  • Eat within 2-3 hours before your appointment and avoid any stimulants (e.g. caffeine).

What if I am scared of needles?

For many people, there’s one thing that holds them back from enjoying the great benefits of Acupuncture – fear of needles!

Acupuncture is the gentlest form of needling, they are extremely fine needles.  Acupuncture needles are nothing like getting a “shot” or “giving” blood for a blood test or as a blood donor. The procedure of needling and what to expect is always explained during your initial treatment.  During a treatment you are always in total control.  I go at whatever pace you are comfortable with.  Your comfort is my priority.

For patients who do not like needles I have some “no needle” alternative options:

You are also welcome to try some very gentle Acupuncture during Acupuncture Happy Hour.

Will it hurt?

Acupuncture by a skilled practitioner rarely causes discomfort.

Your comfort is very important to me.  If anything is causing you concern, it is simply addressed immediately.

Bow Valley Acupuncture uses the highest quality of needles for added patient comfort.

I also use advanced techniques that does not require needling into areas of pain or discomfort (unlike IMS practised by some health practitioners) for instant pain relief.

What is Acupuncture and how does it work?


Acupuncture involves the insertion of very fine disposable sterile needles into the skin at specific anatomical sites known as Acupuncture points.  Acupuncture stimulates these points to promote various natural self-healing processes.

Modern research has demonstrated Acupuncture’s effects on the body’s various systems (such as the nervous, endocrine, immune, cardiovascular, digestive, respiratory, urinary systems).  By stimulating and regulating these systems Acupuncture can treat endless conditions.


Cupping is an ancient Chinese method of creating a vacuum on the skin with glass cups.  Cupping is commonly used for muscle pain and tension, to enhance circulation and to draw toxins.

Cupping is effective in treating muscle injuries as it draws the static blood and lymph, cellular debris and toxins to the surface.  This allows for increased blood flow rich in nutrients, living cells and oxygen for faster healing.


Moxibustion therapy consists of burning dried mugwort over particular Acupuncture points or areas of the body.

The herb and its warmth are used for certain disorders such as; pain worse for cold and/or damp weather, fatigue, water retention, weak digestion, loose stools, menstrual cramps and breech babies.

Modern research has shown that it acts as an emmenagogue, ­ that is an agent that increases blood circulation to the pelvic area and uterus and stimulates menstruation.  This could explain its effective use in treating a breech baby and menstrual cramps.

Tui Na Massage

The term Tui Na (pronounced “twee na”), which literally means “pinch and pull,” refers to a wide range of Traditional Chinese Medicine therapeutic massage and body work.

Tui na is not generally used for pleasure and relaxation, but rather as a treatment for specific conditions.

Tui na is applied according to the same principles as Acupuncture, often incorporating Acupressure (finger pressure is used to stimulate Acupuncture points instead of needles).

Auricular therapy

Auricular therapy is the stimulation of Acupuncture points on the external ear surface.  The ear holds a microsystem of the body, that is the ear represents the whole body.

The basic concept in auriculotherapy is that nerves in the skin overlying specific areas of the external ear correspond to specific parts of the brain which has reflex connections to the body.

Stimulation may be provided by Acupuncture, beads or seeds.  Seeds and beads are applied with adhesive plaster to be worn for prolonged periods of time.

They are excellent for people who do not like needles and provide ongoing treatment/stimulation between your appointments.

TDP therapy

TDP therapy consist of a lamp that emits far infrared rays (FIR).  FIR is therapeutic heat/energy that penetrates the body to the deep layers of tissue, providing very effective recuperative and analgesic effects.

The body experiences the FIR from a TDP as a gentle radiant heat.

Far Infrared Rays (FIR) are naturally safe and beneficial rays from the sun.  The body absorbs FIR and reflects FIR when it’s been saturated with sufficient FIR.

When absorbed FIR therapeutically interacts with biological structures to boost your immune system and promote healing; cell repair, pain relief, circulation and reduced inflammation.

A TDP lamp contains a plate coated with 43 elements essential to the human body.  When this plate is heated it emits FIR with an absorption depth of up to 13cm. The body selectively absorbs this energy for its therapeutic effects.  The heated minerals also emit their vibration to the area being treating.  Injured areas are often deficient in minerals and providing them with these minerals appears to also facilitate the healing process.


Electro-Acupuncture (EA) is similar to Acupuncture with the addition of small electrodes clipped to the needles.  The electrodes provide a pulsating electrical current to the needles.

During EA you may experience tingling, a soft humming or mild involuntary muscle twitches.

The frequency and intensity of the electricity used is based on your comfort and the condition being treated.

EA amplifies the powerful effect of Acupuncture and is often used for:

  • Disorders and injuries affecting the nervous system
  • Chronic pain
  • Spasm
  • Paralysis
  • Injuries

The frequency of the electro stimulation is very important.  Specific frequencies stimulate the release of natural painkillers and anti-inflammatories and promotes cell repair.

EA not only affects the area of injury but can also stimulate the nervous system.  By stimulating the nervous system Electro-Acupuncture is extremely useful for motor and sensory problems

Pa-Chi Piezo Stimulator

The Pa-Chi Piezo stimulator is perfect for first time patients to Acupuncture.  The Pa-Chi Piezo Stimulator activates Acupuncture points, helping you get the benefit of Acupuncture without the penetration of needles.

Although not as long-lasting as needle Acupuncture, the Pa-Chi Piezo Stimulator will help you experience pain relief while you relax and build trust in your Acupuncturist.

Many clients purchase a Pa-Chi Piezo Stimulator for safe pain relief treatments at home.

Chinese Herbal Medicine

Centuries old Chinese herbs are used today under modern pharmaceutical standards and extensive research.  There are over 5,000 medicinal substances currently used in Chinese herbal medicine.  Chinese herbs mostly consist of barks, roots, seeds, flowers and minerals.

Chinese herbal medicine is based on the synergistic effect of multiple ingredients.  Chinese herbal formulas are carefully made specific to each patient’s needs and underlying constitution.

Chinese herbal medicine is drug free, extremely safe and effective when prescribed by a qualified TCM Practitioner.  Bow Valley Acupuncture uses Chinese herbs of the highest quality, purity and efficacy produced by Bema Botanical in Vancouver.

Bema Botanical meet the strictest standards for purity, potency and safety.  They are backed by Certificates of Analysis and fully comply with Health Canada’s Good Manufacturing Practices. (GMP).  Bema Products are free of aristolochic acid and are screened for pesticides, bacteria and heavy metals (such as arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium and chromium).

Cosmetic Acupuncture and Cosmetic Microneedling FAQ

What are the benefits?


  • Eliminate lines and reduce wrinkles
  • Tighten loose skin
  • Reduce post acne scarring (and other scars)
  • Slow the signs of aging
  • Improve sun damage pigmentation
  • Greatly increase the absorption of anti-aging and skin lightening skin products
  • Reduce the appearance of stretch marks

Cosmetic Acupuncture:

  • Eliminate lines and reduce wrinkles
  • Slow the signs of aging
  • Tones the skin
  • Create soft smooth skin
  • Improves facial color, moisture and luster

All treatments come with Acupuncture to improve your health, prevent disease and address underlying imbalances and lifestyle factors that may be accelerating your natural aging process.

How many treatments do I need to see results?

Cosmetic Microneedling:
The frequency of Microneedling treatments vary with the intensity of the treatment.  Mild treatments may be repeated weekly and deeper treatments repeated at least every 3 weeks.  Increasing frequency of treatments does not produce better results.

The final results are not viewed immediately because new collagen continues to be laid down for approximately 3–6 months after treatment has ceased.  Therefore, patience and commitment to a treatment plan is required.

Results also depend on the skin’s condition and how you are taking care of your skin at home.

Results can last for years but this depends on the individual.  Maintenance treatments should be continued as with the natural aging process wrinkles will eventually start to return.

Cosmetic Acupuncture:
A series of one treatment per week for 12 weeks is recommended.   More may be required depending on the skin’s condition and lifestyle factors.

After a series of treatments, maintenance treatments once per month are beneficial as the natural aging process continues.

Results after a series of treatments should last for 2-3 years.  This depends on how well you take care of your skin and health.  Maintenance treatments should continue during this period.

After 2-3 years you can begin another treatment series.

Why is a Cosmetic Consultation compulsory before starting my Cosmetic treatments?

A Cosmetic Consult helps us to identify your skin concerns and expectations. Together we discuss your treatment options and form an individualized treatment plan for you.

During your Cosmetic Consult you are provided important information on how to prepare for each treatment.

As all Cosmetic treatments include Acupuncture for your health we also cover any health concerns you may have and identify any underlying imbalances and lifestyle factors that may be accelerating your natural aging process.

Will it hurt?

Cosmetic Microneedling:
Mild Microneedling treatments do not really hurt, most clients report a mild prickling sensation.

Deeper Microneedling treatments can cause discomfort, so a numbing cream is applied to the skin before the treatment.

Cosmetic Acupuncture:
The Acupuncture needles used are extremely fine and of the highest quality, this helps to greatly reduce the needling sensation.  Some areas of the face are more sensitive, such as the forehead and upper lip.

What is the down time?

There is very little to no downtime after either procedure.

After Microneedling your skin may be a little red for one to two days, like you have had a bit too much sun.  Occasionally you may experience some slight puffiness after Microneedling.

Is it suitable for me?

Cosmetic Acupuncture and Microneedling may not be suited if any of the following apply:

  • Open facial wounds, cuts and abrasions
  • Skin infections
  • Active acne
  • Nodular or pustular Rosacea
  • Moderate to severe eczema or psoriasis
  • Skin laser last 3 weeks
  • Skin dermabrasion last week
  • Cosmetic surgery last 6 weeks
  • Chemical peel last 2 weeks
  • Botox last 6 months
  • Accutane last 6 months
  • Extreme keloidal tendency
  • Chemotherapy or radiation therapy
  • Sensitive or allergic to lidocaine or prilocaine
  • Pregnant or breast feeding
  • Planning on becoming pregnant in the next 12 months