As a practitioner of Gunn IMS, I am asked repeatedly what is the difference between Acupuncture and Gunn IMS and dry needling?
Acupuncture is a component of Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is based on an ancient Chinese philosophy about the body’s flow of energy. The Chinese have divided the body into different energy channels known as “Meridians” and they believe that illness or injury are due to blockages in these channels. To restore health, the Chinese insert acupuncture needles into certain points along these channels. The points would be different depending on the illness or injury and these points can be in muscles, joints or spaces. The stimulation of these points would restore balance and bring about healing. Acupuncture works to restore the flow of the body’s energy. Acupuncture is not based on Western medicine’s understanding of pain, anatomy and biomechanics.
Dry Needling is the practice of taking an acupuncture needle or a hypodermic needle and inserting it, sometimes repeatedly, into the trigger points of muscle. This practice stemmed from Dr. Janet Travel’s work on myofascial trigger points. The purpose is to release tension in tight muscles.
Gunn IMS is a system of assessing and treating neuropathic pain. It was developed by Dr. Chan Gunn and is based on Western medicine. Dr. Gunn won the order of Canada for his work in 2002. Gunn IMS can only be done by a practitioner trained, by Dr. Gunn or his associates, to assess a patient for the signs and symptoms of neuropathic pain. One of the characteristics of neuropathic pain is tight ropey bands in affected muscles. These muscles will be “dry needled” to produce three effects: 1) a stretch reflex and contraction of the muscle to ultimately get it to relax, 2) microtrauma and inflammation to bring about healing and 3) resetting of the nervous system. To do a complete Gunn IMS treatment, it is not sufficient to just needle tight muscles. A practitioner must also needle the muscles that can compress the nerve roots that supply the affected muscles and look globally at the body.