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California OT Physical Agent Modalities

“Physical agent modalities” means techniques that produce a response in soft tissue through the use of light, water, temperature, sound, or electricity. These techniques are used as adjunctive methods in conjunction with, or in immediate preparation for, occupational therapy services.

An occupational therapist using physical agent modalities shall demonstrate to the satisfaction of the board that he or she has completed post professional education and training in all of the following areas:

  • Anatomy and physiology of muscle, sensory, vascular, and connective tissue in response to the application of physical agent modalities.
  • Principles of chemistry and physics related to the selected modality.
  • Physiological, neurophysiological, and electrophysiological changes that occur as a result of the application of a modality.
  • Guidelines for the preparation of the patient, including education about the process and possible outcomes of treatment.
  • Safety rules and precautions related to the selected modality.
  • Methods for documenting immediate and long-term effects of treatment.
  • Characteristics of the equipment, including safe operation, adjustment, indications of malfunction, and care.

Physical agent modalities may be used only when an occupational therapist has demonstrated to the Board in an application filed pursuant to section 4155 that he or she has met the post professional education and training requirements established by this section as follows:

Education: Completion of thirty (30) contact hours in the subjects listed above.

Training: Completion of 240 hours of supervised on-the-job training, clinical internship or affiliation, which may be paid or voluntary, pertaining to physical agent modalities.

An occupational therapist whose application provides proof of current certification as a Certified Hand Therapist, issued by the Hand Therapy Certification Commission, shall be deemed to have met the education and training requirements established by this section. 

An occupational therapist may use only those physical agent modalities he or she is competent to use.


Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 2570.2

Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 2570.3

Cal. Code Regs., tit. 16 § 4152

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