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Ultrasound Therapy

What Is Ultrasound Therapy?

Ultrasound therapy is using sound waves to treat medical problems. These sound waves are above the range of human hearing. Mostly is used as a part of physical therapy. Sometimes is called vibration therapy, because the action mechanism is provoking tissues to vibrate. The frequency of sound waves used in ultrasound therapy is between 800,000 Hz and 2,000,000 Hz.

Most common conditions treated with ultrasound therapy include soft tissues injuries and non-acute joint swellings and muscle spasms.

How Does Ultrasound Therapy Work?

Ultrasound therapy is applied through the skin, using the head of the ultrasound probe that is in direct contact with the skin, with a transmission gel between. Within the head of the probe are crystals whose vibrating causes piezoelectric effect, and this effect generates ultrasound waves. Waves pass through the skin and provoke vibration in the local soft tissues. This vibration results with producing heat within the tissues.

The ultrasound treatments usually last 3-5 minutes, and during that time the ultrasound probe is in constant motion. Some people feel some mild pulsating or slight warmth on the skin, but most nothing at all. No discomfort is present.

Types of Ultrasound Therapy

There are two main types of ultrasound waves depending on the characteristic of the waves. These are pulsed waves and continuously transmitted waves.

  • Continuously transmitted waves are used in the thermal ultrasound therapy, this have warming effect on the tissues which encourage faster healing due to increased metabolism of the local cells.
  • The second type of ultrasound therapy uses pulsed waves and is called mechanical ultrasound therapy. The effect of this kind of therapy is decreased inflammation, and reduced pain and swelling.

Which type of therapy will be used depends on the condition that needs to be treated. For example, if you have muscle strain or neural pain, it is most likely that thermal ultrasound therapy will be used, and if you have pain caused by scar tissue, it is most likely that mechanical therapy will be used.

Uses of Ultrasound Therapy

Ultrasound therapy is mostly used as a part of physical therapy to treat pain and to promote tissue healing. It is mostly used to treat soft tissue injuries and conditions such as:

  • Ligament sprains
  • Muscle sprains
  • Tendonitis
  • Bursitis
  • Myofascial pain
  • Rheumatic arthritis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Metatarsalgia
  • Frozen shoulder
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Pain caused by scar tissue
  • Phantom limb pain

Ultrasound Therapy Benefits For Recovery

Ultrasound waves gently massage the underlying muscles, tendons and ligaments, causing scar tissue to soften without any added extra strain on the patient. The heating caused by vibration of the tissues leads to increased blood flow to the targeted area, which speed up the healing process.

The results from ultrasound therapy include reduced pain and swelling and increased healing. Decrease in the pain can be seen even after one treatment. It has been shown that ultrasound therapy cause increases in:

  • healing rates
  • tissue relaxation
  • tissue heating
  • local blood flow
  • scar tissue breakdown

Is Ultrasound Therapy Safe?

Ultrasound therapy is deemed safe by the FDA when provided by licensed professional and when there aren’t any contraindications. The therapist should keep the transducer head in constant motion, or otherwise there is risk of burning the tissues underneath.

Ultrasound therapy should not be used:

  • over wounds
  • over the abdomen of women who are pregnant or menstruating
  • over or near areas with malignant tumors or metastatic lesions
  • over healing fractures
  • around the eyes, breasts or genital organs
  • over any plastic or metal implants
  • over areas with impaired sensation or blood flow