Therapeutic modalities are treatments that cause some change to the body.† They assist in the healing process of an injury.† The most common modality is ice, but there are many other modalities.† This page will help to briefly explain different modality types and why they are used.

Sarah E. Sander, MS, ATC, PES

Phone: (570) 673-5134

Fax: (570) 673-5566


What are modalities?

Electrical Stimulation (E-stim)


E-stim is used to treat muscle strains, break muscle spasms, and after surgery.† It helps to relieve pain, and help to retrain muscles to fire correctly following surgery.† Electrical impulses from the unit stimulate the muscle to contract.† Different wave forms help to achieve different rehabilitative goals.

Text Box: Ultrasound

Therapeutic ultrasound is used as a deep-heating agent.  It helps to facilitate healing in severe muscle strains, contusions (bruises), injuries to ligaments, joint capsules, and treat scar tissue.

How it works: electrical energy from the outlet travels to the ultrasound head and causes a crystal in the sound head to vibrate.  The vibrations travel through the skin, and when they meet scar tissue, adhesions, or injured tissue, causes friction, resulting in heating of deep tissues.



Hydrocollator packs are more commonly referred to as heat packs.† They are used to help relax muscles, in preparation for stretching or physical activity.† Unlike ultrasound, the heat from hydrocollator packs do not penetrate deep into the tissue, but create more of a superficial heating sensation.

*Always wrap a heat pack in a towel to avoid burning the skin!

Text Box: Ice

Ice is the most commonly used modality.  Itís greatest benefit is pain relief.  Different ice applications include: ice bag, ice massage, and commercial ice packs.  Ice massage is rubbing ice (usually frozen in dixie cups) directly on the painful area until area is numb.  This application is most commonly used with shin splints.
*When using a commercial ice pack (anything other than an ice bag), always make sure there is a layer of towel or clothes between the pack and the skin to avoid frostbite.
**Typical ice application: 20 minutes on, 2 hours off (this allows proper rewarming of the tissue and ensures frostbite will not occur).



Cold whirlpools are beneficial for those with ankle sprains more than 2 or 3 days old.† Whirlpool treatment allows movement of the ankle, helping to restore full range of motion faster, while still receiving the benefit of the cold.† Cold Whirlpools are also beneficial for muscle strains and shin splints because they allow a greater area to be treated.† Warm whirlpools are beneficial in relieving sore muscles, and aid in relaxation following practice or competition.