2. Different Diagnosis Methods
Acupuncture is based on ancient theories about meridians (as explained above), and this determines needle placement, length and number of treatments, and other factors depending on your condition. IMS needling attempts to locate specific nerves and muscles being impaired that are contributing to your symptoms.
3. Targeted vs General
As the last point suggests, an IMS physio will attempt to target specific muscles, all depending on your condition. For example, if you have shoulder pain the IMS physiotherapist will likely insert the needle into your shoulder muscles because that is the area being treated.
Traditional acupuncture practitioners, on the other hand, may target a few spots around the shoulder muscle as well as other non-local points because the needle placement is pursuing a different goal. These non-local points may help activate different parts of your nervous system such as the rest and digest system.
4. Needle Depth
In general, acupuncture needles will not be inserted as far as the needles in IMS therapy. The reason again has to do with the purpose. With IMS needling, therapists want to stimulate your muscles and nerves. To do that, they have to go deep enough to get a reaction from the muscle. With acupuncture, the depths are pre-determined and typically do not need to be as deep to accomplish the goal.
5. Duration of Treatment
Acupuncture generally lasts quite a bit longer than IMS physiotherapy. Most IMS needling sessions last for just a few minutes, because once the muscles and nerves have been properly stimulated the treatment is done.
Acupuncture will typically last 15-30 minutes, but can go as long as an hour in some cases.
6. Level of Soreness
Dry needling IMS is a more ‘invasive’ procedure for the reasons you’ve already seen, and it does produce some soreness that can last a day or two. You will feel it. Acupuncture tends to produce little to no soreness. Most patients report none at all!
7. Different Foundations
As mentioned earlier, acupuncture is not based on western science. While science has demonstrated the effectiveness of acupuncture physiotherapy to treat multiple conditions like those you saw in the referenced studies, the technique itself was not developed by modern science. It’s been around for thousands of years, before science as we practice it today even existed.
IMS physiotherapy was developed in the 1970s, and is based on scientific understandings of biology, muscle health, the nervous system, and other elements of human physiology.
For an in-depth exploration of IMS physiotherapy as a form of dry needling physio, read the ultimate guide to IMS treatment.