Physical Agent Modalities (PAMs)

Disclaimer: Practice guidelines provide licensees with general guidance to promote good practice. Law, rules and regulations, not guidelines, specify the requirements for practice and what may constitute professional misconduct.

Although not defined in Education Law, physical agent modalities are generally understood to be those modalities that produce a response in soft tissue through the use of light, water, temperature, sound, or electricity. Physical agent modalities may include, but are not limited to, paraffin baths, hot packs, cold packs, fluidotherapy, contrast baths, ultrasound, whirlpool and electrical stimulation units (e.g., functional electrical stimulation (FES)/neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) devices, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator) and others.

Commissioner's Regulations allow occupational therapy professionals to use modalities and techniques based on approaches taught in occupational therapy curricula and included in professional education programs in occupational therapy registered by the department. Professional educational programs in New York State provide an instructional foundation for the use of physical agent modalities, including deep heat modalities.

Occupational therapy professionals may use physical agent modalities only as part of a program of occupational therapy. Physical agent modalities may not be used as a stand-alone treatment because alone, physical agent modalities do not align with service standards described in the scope of practice of occupational therapy, i.e. "a program of purposeful activities to develop or maintain adaptive skills...."

Prior to using PAMs independently, you must complete appropriate education, training and supervision to become competent to provide these services.

Last Updated: April 15, 2021