Physical agent modalities are devices or interventions that can produce soft tissue changes, in order to benefit patient outcome. Hot and cold are prime examples of modalities. They are applied in the form of hot packs, paraffin baths and fluidotherapy, to mention a few methods, to help decrease joint stiffness and increase range of motion. These, in conjunction with therapeutic exercises can help make tissues more pliable. Ice is sometimes used to decrease swelling after exertion.

Whirlpool is another modality that is used in Hand Therapy. It combines moisture with heat and water motion, as well as antiseptic additives to clean wounds and encourage healing.

Another commonly used modality is ultrasound. It is used to help decrease scar adhesions and inflammation. It is often used with a steroid cream (phonophoresis). For effective use, phonophoresis treatments must include a prescribed set of treatments. Electrical nerve and tissue stimulation is sometimes used to help control pain or swelling, and to trigger muscle function.

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Such modalities, used in conjunction with an exercise program, can speed return of normal hand function.