What's in a name? Acupuncture vs Intramuscular Stimulation

According to the British Medical Acupuncture Society, the word acupuncture is derived from Latin stemming from ‘acus’ meaning needle and ‘punctura’ meaning puncture. The technique involves piercing the skin with fine metal needles in order to relieve symptoms, cure disease and promote health.


The GEANF was founded in 2004, bringing together 14 pain specialists and researchers in a top down and bottom up neuromodulation.


One of its founders has stated


EA needles“When I was doing my master's degree in Clinical Medicine at the Porto Alegre Clinics Hospital (HCPA), Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, in 2008, we decided to strategically publish the stimulation techniques as IMS (Intramuscular Stimulation), in order to be able to publish in journals with great impact factor. So we are able to produce articles that give the support and evidence we needed. Last year we presented at the IASP Congress a very interesting work on stimulation of the Spinal Accessory Nerve with effects of activation of the Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex, in addition to the known modulation effect on the regional muscular activity, besides Trapezius itself.”


Interesting to note that in order to have their very interesting and relevant research published, the group decided to use the descriptive term ‘intramuscular stimulation’ and not ‘acupuncture’. Understandable of course, given how much misunderstanding and misinterpretation the term acupuncture attracts from many, including those who sit on journal editorial boards, many of whom would ignorantly dismiss acupuncture as hocus pocus.


But of course acupuncture is not hocus pocus, and its scientific basis has been well established. 


Some very interesting articles which were recommended by the founder for perusal include those listed below:

Botelho et Al. A Framework for Understanding the Relationship between Descending Pain Modulation, Motor Corticospinal, and Neuroplasticity Regulation Systems in Chronic Myofascial Pain. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 2016.


Graca-Tarragó et Al. Intramuscular electrical stimulus potentiates motor cortex modulation effects on pain and descending inhibitory systems in knee osteoarthritis: a randomized, factorial, sham-controlled study. Journal of Pain Research, 2019.


Botelho et Al. Insights About the Neuroplasticity State on the Effect of Intramuscular Electrical Stimulation in Pain and Disability Associated With Chronic Myofascial Pain Syndrome (MPS): A Double-Blind, Randomized, Sham-Controlled Trial. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 2018.


Graca-Tarragó et Al. Electrical Intramuscular Stimulation in Osteoarthritis Enhances the Inhibitory Systems in Pain Processing at Cortical and Cortical Spinal System. Pain Medicine, 2016.


Couto et Al. Paraspinal Stimulation Combined With Trigger Point Needling and Needle Rotation for the Treatment of Myofascial Pain: A Randomized Sham-controlled Clinical Trial. Clinical Journal of Pain, 2014.


All very scientific sounding articles, and not a mention of acupuncture despite all using what could be referred to as acupuncture techniques.


So what’s in a name? Quite a lot from the looks of it, especially when trying to get good research published and changing perceptions.


By Simon






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