What is Iontophoresis in physical therapy?

Iontophoresis is a treatment we use at Swetlic Chiropractic & Physical Therapy in Mount Vernon, Ohio

Some injuries can result in pain and mobility issues in the affected area. In these instances, physical therapy may be recommended. A physical therapist has various methods in which to provide therapeutic value to a patient. Iontophoresis is one such type of treatment. As a form of electrical stimulation, iontophoresis is used to push medication into the skin to treat a range of conditions.

HOW DOES IONTOPHORESIS WORK?

Iontophoresis works similar to a magnet, only through an electrical charge. When one puts two North poles of a magnet against each other, the magnets will repel each other. This is the same concept for iontophoresis. If the medication used is negatively charged, a negative electrical charge is used to repel the medication. This electrical stimulation also makes the skin more receptive to medication. This means that as the medication is repelled, it can make its way into the skin to provide therapeutic relief to an injured area. The types of medication used may include:

• Analgesics
• Anti-inflammatories
• Corticosteroids

WHAT IS IONTOPHORESIS USED FOR?

A physical therapist may use this type of treatment to help with a wide range of symptoms. While there are multiple uses, some of the most common reasons a therapist may choose to use iontophoresis is for the following:

• To reduce pain
• To decrease inflammation and swelling
• To reduce muscle spams
• To break down scar tissue or calcium deposits

WHAT TO EXPECT DURING THE PROCEDURE

Medication will be applied to an electrode, either positive or negative, depending on the charge of the medication used. A prescription may be required in some regions. The prepared electrode is placed on the affected are with the other electrode attached near this area. Once the unit is turned on, medication begins to be pushed into the body. Most patients feel a tingling sensation during the delivery of the medication. If the treatment becomes uncomfortable, the individual should tell the physical therapist, who may adjust the intensity of the charge. It is important for the patient to follow all aftercare instructions for the most effective treatment.

ARE THERE SIDE EFFECTS?

Because iontophoresis is a safe procedure, the risk of adverse effects is minimal. However, the most common side effects, when experienced, were redness an dry skin. Using a topical lotion can help.

WHAT ARE THE CONTRAINDICATIONS FOR USE?

Because an electrical current is introduced to the body, those who have certain conditions should not consider this treatment. This includes those who:

• Are pregnant
• Have skin disease or rash
• Experience certain heart problems
• Have a pacemaker or certain other implants

STUDIES FOR EFFECTIVENESS

There have been a few studies completed to determine the effectiveness of this treatment. It appears to work better for some conditions better than it does others. For example, iontophoresis appears to work better for muscle spasms than it does for say impingement of the shoulder. However, the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology found that this treatment was more effective than transdermal patches at delivery of medications.