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In addition to therapeutic exercise, manual therapy, and other common treatment methods, our Physical Therapists use a variety of modalities to reduce pain, facilitate healing and restore function. The following are six types of physical therapy modalities that are used:


Iontophoresis is a method of delivering anti-inflammatory medication through the skin using an electrical current.


Ice and cold packs are used to relieve pain, swelling, and inflammation from injuries and other conditions such as arthritis. Ice can be used for 10 to 20 minutes at a time, several times a day.


Heat can help relax and heal your muscles and soft tissues by increasing blood circulation. This can be especially helpful if a joint is stiff from osteoarthritis or from being immobilized, or to relax the muscles before exercise. However, heat can also increase swelling in an injured area if it is used too soon after the injury. Most experts recommend waiting at least 48 hours after an injury before using heat.


Ultrasound therapy uses high-pitched sound waves to ease muscle spasms and relax and warm muscles before exercise, help relieve pain and inflammation, and promote healing.

Electrical Stimulation

Electrical stimulation is the general term that describes the use of electrical current to create an effect in the body. Physical therapists sometimes use electrical stimulation at low levels to reduce the sensation of pain. It may work by either "scrambling" pain signals to mask feelings of pain, or by causing the body to produce natural pain-killers called endorphins. This use of electrical current is called transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS).

Physical therapists can also use electrical stimulation to cause muscles to contract (tense). This type of therapy can help maintain muscle tone when muscles would otherwise lose strength.

Examples of this type of therapy include:

  • ​Electrical stimulation after a stroke to maintain some tone in the shoulder muscles so they hold the joint together better and prevent pain.

  • Electrical stimulation to maintain leg strength in a person with severe arthritis of the knee whose pain increases with exercise.

Schedule your appointment or call us at 310-329-1444 to discuss your treatment plan.

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