Therapeutic Ultrasound 

for Healing & Pain Relief

Ultrasound therapy is a treatment modality used to treat pain conditions and  promote tissue healing. While ultrasound therapy is not effective for all chronic pain conditions, it may help reduce your pain if you have any of the following:

 

Types of Ultrasound Therapy

There are two main types of ultrasound therapy: thermal and mechanical. Both use sound waves generated by a transducer head to penetrate soft tissues. The difference between the two types of ultrasound therapy is the rate at which the sound waves penetrate the tissues.

  • Thermal ultrasound therapy. Thermal ultrasound therapy uses a more continuous transmission of sound waves. The sound waves cause microscopic vibrations in the deep tissue molecules, increasing heat and friction. The warming effect encourages healing in the soft tissues by increasing the metabolism at the level of the tissue cells.

  • Mechanical ultrasound therapy. Mechanical ultrasound therapy uses pulses of sound waves to penetrate tissues. While this still has a minor warming effect on the tissues, it also causes expansion and contraction in the tiny gas bubbles of the soft tissues. This helps to decrease the inflammatory response, reducing tissue swelling and thus decreasing pain.

The type of ultrasound therapy you receive depends on your condition. If you have myofascial pain, or had a muscle strain or sprain that has not healed, your therapist will likely use thermal ultrasound therapy. If your pain is caused by scar tissue or swelling, such as with carpal tunnel syndrome, you may benefit more from mechanical ultrasound therapy.

 

How is Ultrasound Therapy Performed?

Your therapist will select a small area to treat at a time 3 to 10 minutes. Gel is applied either to the transducer head or to your skin, which helps the sound waves evenly penetrate the skin. During your ultrasound treatment, your therapist will continually move the transducer head over and around the selected area.

 

Will I Feel Anything During Ultrasound Therapy?

Some people feel a mild pulsing, while others may feel a slight warmth in the skin. Don’t be surprised, however, if you feel nothing at all, apart from the gel on your skin. Ultrasound therapy, should not be painful.

Who Should Avoid Ultrasound?

Ultrasound therapy is generally safe for everyone with a few exceptions. Those suffering from hemophilia or have a pacemaker should not receive this treatment. If you have received cortisone injections within 30 days let your therapist know so that area avoids direct contact. Ultrasound will not be performed on open sores or lesions. Alert your therapist if you taking antibiotics for an active infection of tissue or bone.

  • Over the abdomen, pelvis or lumbar in women who are pregnant

  • Over lesions, broken skin or healing fractures

  • Around the eyes, breasts or sexual organs

  • Over any areas with plastic implants

  • Over or near areas with malignant tumors

 

How does Ultrasound Therapy Work?

The ultrasound rays, penetration generates heat, increasing blood flow, and relaxing muscles & connective tissues thereby reducing pain and muscle spasms. The stimulation encourages repair and can greatly reduce healing times of certain injuries. By loosening tissue, burning off cell waste, and improving circulation to treated areas, the range of motion often increases.

The most common UT uses involve chronic pain, muscle & tissue injuries & post surgical scar tissue especially liposuction, tummy tuck etc. It has been effective for sports injuries, tendonitis, bursitis, various ligament & tendon injuries. It can treat lower back pain, sprains, and joints, such as frozen shoulder.

Sources:

Belanger, Alain-Yvan. Evidence-Based Guide to Therapeutic Physical Agents. Lippincott Williams & Williams. 2003.

Deutscher D, Horn SD, Dickstein R et al. Associations Between Treatment Processes, Patient Characteristics, and Outcomes in Outpatient Physical Therapy Practice. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 2009 Aug;90(8):1349-63

Durmus D, Durmaz Y, Canturk F. Effects of Therapeutic Ultrasound and Electrical Stimulation Program on Pain, Trunk Muscle Strength, Disability, Walking Performance, Quality of Life, and Depression in Patients with Low Back Pain: a Randomized-controlled Trial. Rheumatology International. 2009 Jul 31

FDA U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Ultrasonic Therapy Product or Ultrasonic Diathermy

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