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Pain Relief through Iontophoresis: What Is It, and Can It Help You?

By Majid Saedifar, DPT

Patients hearing a description of Iontophoresis are often struck by how bizarre it sounds: through the use of a low-volt electric current, medication is able to be moved through the skin and to the affected area. Without getting too technical, the way it works is that a small electrical device is able to push oppositely-charged ions through the dermal layers. Think about the force involved when two magnets push against one another: that same electrical repulsion can be used to move medication. 

Believe it or not, Iontophoresis has been used since the 18th century, and it continues today simply because it’s a great option for us physical therapists. Unlike injections, Iontophoresis doesn’t require any traumatic penetration of the skin, which always has a small potential to cause a reaction. Unlike shots, it’s also completely painless. However, like injections, Iontophoresis rapidly delivers medication to a specific area.

Iontophoresis even offers advantages over oral medications. Because less of the drug is absorbed into the GI tract, lower dosages of the drug are required. Additionally, the liver is tasked with breaking down less of the medication, and the chances of overdose are greatly decreased when potent medication is involved.

Within our physical therapy offices, we use Iontophoresis as a way to treat localized inflammations of the tissue and muscle. For example, Iontophoresis is most often used as a way to effectively treat tendonitis, arthritis, and bursitis, among other conditions. Iontophoresis is also helpful reducing calcium deposits within the muscle that can occasionally occur following an injury. For treating inflamed tissue half an inch or less below the surface of the skin, Iontophoresis is a great tool at our disposal.

Iontophoresis may not be right for you if you have sensitive skin or if you are very elderly. Treatments may also consist of several appointments in order to be most effective.

For more information on Iontophoresis and whether the treatment is right for your injury or muscle pain, please contact the Medstar offices at (818) 244-0009 so that we can assist you further.

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