What is iontophoresis?
Iontophoresis is the use of an electrical current to deliver medication through the skin to a specific treatment area. This is another way of delivering medication to an area other than orally or with a needle injection. The type of medication used will be based on the desired effect to the treated area.
Indications for use of iontophoresis
Iontophoresis is used to administer medication to the specific area for a specific purpose. Some of the most common indications include: inflammation, edema, bone spurs/calcium deposits, fungal infections, scars, wounds, and muscle spasms. Iontophoresis can be used for other indications as long as the medication that needs to be delivered has a specific positive or negative charge.
Rationale for use of iontophoresis
Iontophoresis was developed to bring a specific type of medication to an area without having to send the medication through the entire body or having to inject the medication through the skin. The electrical part of the iontophoresis uses a direct current that is either a positively or negatively charged active electrode and an oppositely charged dispersive electrode. The medication is then placed on the active electrode so that the active electrode has the same charge as the medication. When the electrodes are placed on the skin and activated, the charge from the electrode will drive the medication away from the electrode and into the area being treated. This electrical charge will actually push the medication through the skin and into the tissue to be treated.
How is iontophoresis used?
Iontophoresis is used by a physical therapist in conjunction with a complete treatment program. The physical therapist will position a patient in an appropriate position and perform the treatment to the affected area for an appropriate amount of time and at appropriate settings. The settings will be based on patient’s tolerance and on the amount of medication being administered. The medication will be administered via either a patch that is placed on the patient and then the patient will take it off at home after a set amount of time, or a set of electrodes that will be placed onto the patient and connected to a specific machine that will run until the desired amount of medication is administered. Most commonly, iontophoresis will be performed at the end of a physical therapy treatment and is used to help control inflammation.
Benefits of iontophoresis
Iontophoresis has a significant benefit of being able to administer a medication to a specific area without having to perform an injection. When combined with other physical therapy treatment procedures, iontophoresis allows for increased range of motion, increased strength, and decreased pain/symptoms.
Expected outcomes with the use of iontophoresis
With all the benefits and minimal side effects of iontophoresis, a person can expect to have a quicker recovery time and improved healing. Iontophoresis by itself will help to decrease symptoms but rarely makes any long-term changes in symptoms or pathology.
There is not a set number of treatments that can be performed with iontophoresis, and as long as a person is seeing benefit and progressing with recovery, iontophoresis can be continued. Most people will experience some type of benefit within six treatments of iontophoresis and other combined physical treatment procedures.