Sports Medicine : Iontophoresis & Phonophoresis
 
 
 

Iontophoresis and phonophoresis are technologies that are capable of enhancing drug penetration through the skin. Phonophoresis uses ultrasonic waves to transmit molecules of drug through the skin, as opposed to iontophoresis, which uses low level electric current. Both techniques are used to treat inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, plantar fasciitis, tendonitis, bursitis, and carpal tunnel syndrome.

Iontophoresis of ionized drugs provided a 20-60 fold increase in penetration over topical application. Examples of successful applications of iontophoresis include:

• treatment of inflammation/pain of muscles and tendons, including the Achilles tendon
• rapid, noninvasive local anesthesia, particularly for children
• relief of heel pain from bone spurs
• controlling the pain of tennis elbow
• relief of pain from rheumatoid arthritis of the knee
• relief of pain associated with plantar fasciitis
• an alternative to steroid injections for therapy of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
• treatment for scar and tendon adhesions
Acetic acid iontophoresis is effective in the treatment of heel pain. Iontophoresis of dexamethasone for plantar fasciitis should be considered when more immediate results are needed. Iontophoresis has also been used to successfully treat plantar hyperhidrosis.

Phonophoresis (or sonophoresis) combines ultrasound with topical drug therapy to achieve therapeutic drug concentrations at target sites below the skin. A cream or gel containing medications such as corticosteroids, local anesthetics, electrolytes, or antibiotics is applied to the treatment area and then massaged with a transducer head. The technique has been widely used in sports medicine since the 1960s by podiatrists, orthopedists, and physical therapists.

The method of preparation and quality of ingredients used for solutions or gels for iontophoresis or phonophoresis are critical to the success of the therapy and minimizing side effects.


J Am Podiatr Med Assoc. 1999 May;89(5):251-7
Management of heel pain syndrome with acetic acid iontophoresis.
Click here to access the PubMed abstract of this article.


Am J Sports Med. 1997 May-Jun;25(3):312-6
Treatment of plantar fasciitis by iontophoresis of 0.4% dexamethasone. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study.
Click here to access the PubMed abstract of this article.