Iontophoresis is the introduction of various ions (charged particles) into the skin by the means of electricity. There are reports of electricity being used to administer medication that date back to 1745.
Iontophoresis is a means of drug delivery that ensures high local doses of medication in the treatment area while minimising the exposure of the rest of the body. It is a convenient, safe, non invasive route for delivery of drugs for optimum local effects with minimal side effects and low risk of toxicity.
How does it work?
The iontophoresis machine creates a small electrical current that drives the charged particles of medication from the delivery electrode, which is placed over the area of your pain, to the non active electrode, which is placed over a nearby muscle. Studies have shown that the medication penetrates under the delivery electrode into the structures under the skin.
What can I expect?
Most courses of iontophoresis involve 6 treatments over 2 weeks. This may be varied by your doctor depending on your specific condition.
Does it hurt?
Iontophoresis is not painful. You will feel some tingling or warmth at the treatment site. If you feel any significant discomfort during the procedure, you should notify the doctor immediately.
Does it hurt after treatment?
Occasionally people will get a flare of their pain after administration of corticosteroids (the commonest medication used) by any method. This is not predictable. If it does occur, it does not alter your chances of a good outcome, but it does result in discomfort for up to 48 hours after treatment. Flare responses usually lessen after subsequent treatments.
Do I need to change my usual activity?
Your doctor will discuss any need for activity modification with you prior to commencing iontophoresis. In many cases, you do not need to change anything, but occasionally, some modification is necessary to achieve optimum outcomes.
When will I see a difference?
Iontophoresis does not work straight away. Most people start to see an improvement after 4 treatments, but some may not improve until the whole course is finished. Your outcome is assessed when you see the doctor 2 weeks after the completion of your course.
What if it doesn’t work?
Iontophoresis can be very effective on its own. Occasionally it is only partially effective, but in these cases, repeat courses or other adjunct therapies will often lead to a complete response. If iontophoresis is unsuccessful, your doctor will discuss other treatment options for your condition at your follow up visit.