Physical Therapy Modalities

Physical Therapy ModalitiesPhysical therapy modalities are tools used to help expand the effectiveness of chiropractic adjustment and rehabilitative exercise. Essentially, they improve fluid exchange in and out of targeted areas, help injured tissues heal, and reduce the amount of pain you may feel.

Examples of Modalities

Modalities are types of electrical, thermal or mechanical energy that cause physiological changes in muscle tissue. Here some examples that you may be familiar with:

  • Electrical Stimulation
  • Ultrasound
  • Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)
  • Heat Paks
  • Cold Paks/Ice

How Do We Use Modalities?

At Life Care Chiropractic and Wellness Center, we primarily use electrical stimulation and ultrasound in our therapy regimens to increase muscle strength, promote blood flow, reduce muscle spasm and inflammation, and release the body’s own natural pain relievers: endorphins.

  • Electrical stimulation therapy uses an electrical current to cause a single muscle or a group of muscles to contract. By placing electrodes on the skin in various locations, our chiropractic assistant can engage the appropriate muscle fibers. Your chiropractic assistant can change the current setting to allow for the most beneficial effect on muscle contraction.
  • Ultrasound therapy transmits high frequency sound waves through the muscles to cause deep tissue/muscle warming. The warming of the muscle promotes tissue relaxation and is useful in treating muscle tightness and as well as spasms. Another benefit of ultrasound therapy is the reduction of inflammation of muscle tissue.
  • TENS units can be very effective at relieving mild to moderate pain. They function by gently over-stimulate the target region, “distracting” the pain reception centers. The result is greatly reduced or even no pain for the patient. That can be extremely important for someone in sustained or chronic pain! In the interest of full disclosure, though, TENS units are not used therapeutically as they don’t lead to healing or even a sustained period of pain-free living. As soon as the power on the unit is turned off, the effect terminates, and the pain returns. They are very useful, though, for helping the person with chronic pain perform ADL (Activities of Daily Living) functions. Please feel free to ask us for a recommendation for an at-home TENS unit.
  • On the low-tech side, there’s the tried and true heat or ice therapy. If you’re confused about which to use for what situation, let’s clarify: heat relaxes muscles while ice reduces inflammation. So, whenever we have a patient with acute pain such as a sprain/strain, we use ice to reduce the inflammation causing the pain. If you have tight muscles with no signs of inflammation, then we prescribe heat. Dr. Sharman can give you specific heat and ice protocols for your condition.

While physical therapy modalities can help you feel better and move better, it’s important to remember that they should never completely replace a prescribed chiropractic adjustment or rehabilitative exercise program. Give us a call to schedule an appointment and we can help get you on the path to a more mobile, healthy and pain-free lifestyle.


Pregnancy and/or implants preclude the use of particular therapies. Please tell your clinician if you are pregnant or have an implant.

Read our blog to learn How Physical Therapy Modalities Can Be the Icing on the Cake.