What is Therapeutic Ultrasound?
Therapeutic ultrasound is an electrotherapy modality which has been used by physiotherapists since the 1940s. Via an ultrasound probe through a transmission coupling gel in direct contact with your skin, ultrasound waves are applied.
Therapeutic ultrasound may increase:
- healing rates
- tissue heating
- local blood flow
- tissue relaxation
- scar tissue breakdown.
How Could Ultrasound Help?
Ultrasound increases local blood flow. This increase may help to reduce local swelling and promote soft tissue healing rates. A higher power density may soften scar tissue.
Specific Ultrasound Uses
Mastitis or blocked milk ducts successfully respond to therapeutic ultrasound. The effect is quite dramatic, with improvement within 24 to 72 hours.
Phonophoresis uses ultrasound in a non-invasive way of administering medications to tissues below the skin. This method may assist patients who are uncomfortable with injections. With phonophoresis, the ultrasonic energy forces the drug through the skin.
What is an Ultrasound Dose?
A typical ultrasound treatment will take from 3-10 minutes. Where scar tissue breakdown is the goal, this treatment time could be much longer. During the procedure, the head of the ultrasound probe is in constant motion. If kept in continuous motion, the patient should feel no discomfort at all.
Some conditions treated with ultrasound include soft tissues injuries such as muscles or ligament injuries, tendinopathy, non-acute joint swelling and muscle spasm.
How Does an Ultrasound Work?
A piezoelectric effect, caused by the vibration of crystals within the ultrasound head of the probe creates the sound waves. The ultrasound waves generated then pass through the skin cause a vibration of the local soft tissues. This repeated cavitation can cause a deep heating locally though usually no sensation of heat will be felt by the patient. In situations where a heating effect is not desirable, an athermal application occurs. Athermal doses are typical during acute fresh injury and the associated acute inflammation.
When Should Ultrasound be Avoided?
Contraindications of ultrasound include:
- local malignancy,
- over metal implants,
- local acute infection,
- vascular abnormalities,
- active epiphyseal regions (growth plates) in children,
- over the spinal cord in the area of a laminectomy,
- over the eyes, skull, or testes
- and, directly on the abdomen of pregnant women. Treatment ultrasound differs from diagnostic ultrasound!
Like all medical equipment, when used by highly trained professionals, such as your physiotherapist, therapeutic ultrasound is very unlikely to cause any adverse effects. Please consult your physiotherapist for their opinion on whether therapeutic ultrasound could assist your injury.
Therapeutic Ultrasound differs from Real-Time Ultrasound Treatment.