Listed below are some of the common modalities that are used in physical therapy, and how they work.
Ultrasound: Ultrasound machines are a treatment modality used by physical therapists that utilize high or low frequency sound waves. These sound waves are transmitted to the surrounding tissue and vasculature. They penetrate the muscles to cause deep tissue/muscle warming. This promotes tissue relaxation and therefore is useful in treating muscle tightness and spasms. The warming effect of the sound waves also cause vessel vasodilatation and increase circulation to the area that assists in healing. The physical therapist can also adjust the frequency on the machine to use waves that will decrease inflammation.
Electric Stimulation (E-stim): Electrical stimulation is a type of therapeutic treatment that can serve many different purposes. It can be used to decrease pain and inflammation, improve circulation, and it can help your muscles contract properly.
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a type of electrical stimulation used to help decrease acute and chronic pain. TENS works by altering or interrupting the painful signals that travel from injured tissues to your brain.
- Russian stimulation: Russian stimulation is a form of electrical stimulation that uses electricity to contract muscle tissue. After injury or surgery, you may be experiencing muscle weakness. Often, muscles are inhibited after an injury and are unable to generate a forceful contraction. Russian stimulation is used to help improve the contraction of your muscles.
- Neuromuscular electric stimulation (NMES): Neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) is used much like Russian stimulation. Your physical therapist may use NMES to help your muscles contract properly after injury or surgery. This form of muscular re-education can be useful in helping you return to normal function quickly after an injury or surgery.
- Interferential Current: Inferential current (IFC) electrical stimulation is a type of electrical stimulation that your physical therapist may use to help decrease your pain and improve circulation to injured tissues. The IFC works much like TENS, but the current can be easily moved and varied to target your most painful area of injury.
- Iontophoresis: Iontophoresis is a type of electrical stimulation used to administer medication into your body through your skin. The medication, such as dexamethasone, can be used to help decrease inflammation, decrease localized swelling, or decrease muscle spasm. Some medication used in iontophoresis can also help to decrease calcium deposits and can be used to help manage scar tissue.
Therapeutic modalities for allied health professionals. New York: McGraw-Hill.