Iontophoresis: Delivering Medication Electrically By PT


Physical therapy is an important part of many healthcare plans and can be helpful in managing a variety of ailments. One technique that has been used historically over the years is Iontophoresis – an electrotherapy method used to deliver medication to the body with electric currents. In this article, we’ll explore what Iontophoresis is, the science behind it, its benefits and applications in physical therapy, the procedure itself, potential risks and side effects, comparisons to other techniques, training, and qualifications required for practitioners of Iontophoresis, and a summary.

What is Iontophoreses?

Iontophoresis is an electrotherapy technique that uses a low-voltage current delivered through electrodes to deliver medication into the body. The current creates an electrical charge that causes ions of the medication to be propelled across the skin and absorbed by nearby cells, thus entering circulation. This helps treat a variety of ailments without causing discomfort or side effects. It has been used for many years as a safe and reliable method of delivering medication to the body.

The Science Behind Iontophoresis

The process of iontophoresis involves the application of a low-voltage electrical current to the skin. The electric field created by the current causes ions in the medication to be attracted and propelled across the skin, allowing it to be absorbed into nearby cells. This technique is based on principles of electrochemistry and has been studied extensively since its introduction in the 1950s.

Benefits and Uses of Iontophoresis in Physical Therapy

Iontophoresis has a variety of applications in physical therapy, primarily focusing on pain relief. It may be used to treat muscular soreness, joint stiffness, inflammation, and other ailments related to musculoskeletal injury or dysfunction. In addition, it can be used to deliver medications directly to the site of injury, which allows for more targeted and efficient treatment.

The Iontophoresis Procedure

Iontophoresis is a relatively straightforward procedure. An electrical current is applied to the skin using electrodes that are connected to an iontophoresis machine. The intensity and duration of the current is adjusted based on the desired medication and desired therapeutic effect. The procedure may require multiple treatments in order to achieve the desired results.

Risks and Side Effects

The risks associated with iontophoresis are generally minimal, as it does not involve any invasive procedures. However, some people may experience minor skin irritation or discomfort at the site of the electrodes.

Comparisons with Other Techniques

Iontophoresis is similar to other techniques such as ultrasound and electrical stimulation, but offers several advantages over these techniques. It is non-invasive, does not require the use of needles, and can deliver medications directly to the site of injury or dysfunction. This makes it an attractive option for many physical therapists.


Iontophoresis has shown to be a minimally effective treatment option. Additionally, a script is required for medication and many physicians do not see it as having an additional benefit compared to other PT interventions. Despite this physical therapists should be familiar with the process, its risks and benefits, and how to safely apply the equipment.