While most people associate ultrasounds with the diagnostic imaging used during pregnancy, it is also used in physical therapy as a therapeutic treatment. Ultrasound that is used in this way uses lower frequencies than those used for imaging, which is also how it works in the treatment of pain. These lower frequencies focus on treating an issue rather that creating a visible image.
Therapeutic ultrasound is often used as a means of providing heat deep into the soft tissues of the body. This type of therapy is used on tendons, ligaments, and muscles to promote healing, and reduce pain. Unlike heating pads and the like, the waves of the ultrasound reach deep into the tissues to create heat where it is needed. Heating pads provide heat to the skin, but in many cases are unable to reach the soft tissues that need it. The deep heating of ultrasound is beneficial in decreasing pain, and increasing the circulation in areas of injury. This increased circulation is believed to speed up the healing process to minimize the length of recovery.
Deep heating from ultrasound is also used to treat tight or frozen tendons and muscles. The added heat helps the tissues to become easier to stretch, making range of motion exercises more effective, and less painful. Ultrasound is used in this way for a variety of injuries, including:
>> Torn or strained muscles
>> Tightness in the joints
>> Frozen shoulder
The application of ultrasound uses a transducer that is applied to the skin. This transducer runs from the ultrasound machine, and is passed over a gel substance that is applied to the body. This gel is required to ensure that the sound waves enter the body, rather than scattering as soon as they come in contact with the air. Your physical therapist will move the transducer over the affected body part in a circular motion for the time specified for treatment. He or she may also adjust the waves to provide deeper or less penetration depending on the injury.
What It Feels Like
While the ultrasound is being passed over your skin, you may not notice any sensation at all. Others may experience a warming sensation in the area of the injury, and some may experience a tingling sensation. Ultrasound treatments should not cause pain during application. If you begin experiencing pain, it could be due to the transducer not being moved around enough. Make sure to let your therapist know of any painful sensations as soon as they occur.
Therapeutic ultrasound has been used for years in physical therapy, but there are varying opinions concerning its effectiveness. In order for the best outcome during physical therapy, you need to make sure you are following all home exercises as well – especially if your therapist focuses mostly on the ultrasound treatment during your session. The combination of these treatments will generally result in faster healing times, and a much shorter period of limited range of motion.