How does iontophoresis work? | Maven Stories

What is Iontophoresis? 

Iontophoresis is a non-invasive transdermal medication delivery technique. Non-invasive transdermal means that it is applied through the skin - usually via an adhesive patch. The benefits of this delivery method are that it allows for localized delivery, generally bypassing regular side effects of the medication, as well as the invasiveness of an injection which is how this type of medication is often administered.

Common uses

Iontophoresis is commonly used to treat inflammation, pain, and limitations in mobility from musculoskeletal conditions such as lateral epicondylitis, medial epicondylitis, plantar fasciitis, tendonitis/bursitis, and rheumatoid arthritis. 

How Does It Work? 

Iontophoresis utilizes an electrical current to push ionized (charged - positively or negatively) medications through the skin. The adhesive patch has 2 poles (positive and negative) where you place your medication depending on their charge.

“Like charges repel,” so you place a negatively charged medication on the negative pole and vice versa, you place a positively charged medication on the positive pole. This leads to the medication being pushed away from the pole and driven through the skin to be administered to the target tissue. 

As mentioned above, the medication most often utilized for musculoskeletal purposes is Dexamethasone which is a corticosteroid medication. It is an anti-inflammatory so it helps to reduce inflammation, swelling, and pain. The medication gets delivered locally (directly to the affected area) and only penetrates a few millimeters through the skin. 


Once the medication is placed on the correct pole on the adhesive patch, the adhesive is placed and applied directly onto the target site on the body. You can wear the adhesive patch for approximately 8 hours. 

Safety and Warnings

Iontophoresis is a safe medication delivery technique that has been used for decades; however, it is important to know your history of medication allergies or sensitivities before using it. There are some contraindications to this method including but not limited to drug hypersensitivities, pregnancy, and the use of a pacemaker. It is crucial to check with your medical doctor prior to use if you are unsure or have questions regarding specific medications. 

Iontophoresis at MAVEN

Iontophoresis is an effective and worthwhile treatment for musculoskeletal conditions. MAVEN offers Blood flow restriction training near Santa Monica. Our Doctors of Physical Therapy have effectively used iontophoresis and dexamethasone combined with other physical therapies to treat pain and inflammation in musculoskeletal health for many years. If you’re experiencing persistent pain, inflammation and mobility limitations, get in touch with us to see how we can help.