Therapeutic ultrasound is a treatment modality commonly used in physical therapy. Ultrasound has been used as a treatment modality for sports and other injuries by therapists since the 1940s. Ultrasound in physical therapy is not to be confused with diagnostic ultrasound, which is an ultrasound that is used to see the inside of the body, such as checking on a fetus during pregnancy.
How does ultrasound work?
Ultrasonic waves or sound waves of a high frequency that is not audible to the human ear are produced by means of mechanical vibration in the metal treatment head of the ultrasound machine. The treatment head is then moved over the surface of the skin in the region of the injury transmitting the energy into the tissues. As the ultrasound waves pass from the treatment head into the skin they cause the vibration of the surrounding tissues, particularly those that contain collagen. This increased vibration leads to the production of heat within the tissue. In most cases this cannot be felt by the patient themselves. This increase in temperature may cause an increase in the elasticity of structures such as ligaments, tendons, scar tissue and fibrous joint capsules. In addition, heating may also help to reduce pain and muscle spasm and promote the healing process.
When sound waves come into contact with air it causes a dissipation of the waves, and so a special ultrasound gel is placed on the skin to ensure maximal contact between the treatment head and the surface of the skin and to provide a medium through which the sound waves can travel. Ultrasound can also be applied under water which is also a medium for ultrasound waves to travel through.
What Does Ultrasound Feel Like?
While you are receiving an ultrasound treatment, you will most likely not feel anything happening, except perhaps a slight warming sensation or tingling around the area being treated. If the ultrasound sound head is left in one spot too long without movement, you may experience discomfort.
Deep Heating Effects:
Ultrasound is often used to provide deep heating to soft tissue structures in the body. Deep heating tendons, muscles, joints or ligaments increases circulation to those tissues, which is thought to help the healing process. Increasing tissue temperature with ultrasound is also used to help decrease pain. Deep heating can be used to increase the “stretchiness” of muscles and tendons that may be tight. If you have shoulder pain and have been diagnosed with a frozen shoulder, your therapist may use ultrasound to help improve the extensibility of the tissues around your shoulder prior to performing range of motion exercises. This may help improve the ability of your shoulder to stretch.
Non-Thermal Effects (Cavitation):
Ultrasound introduces energy into the body. This energy causes microscopic gas bubbles around your tissues to expand and contract rapidly, a process called cavitation. It is theorized that the expansion and contraction of these bubbles help speed cellular processes and improves healing of injured tissue.
Effects on the inflammatory and repair processes:
One of the greatest proposed benefits of ultrasound therapy is that it is thought to reduce the healing time of certain soft tissue injuries.
Ultrasound is thought to accelerate the normal resolution time of the inflammatory process by attracting more mast cells to the site of injury. This may cause an increase in blood flow which can be beneficial in the sub-acute phase of tissue injury.
Ultrasound may also stimulate the production of more collagen which is the main protein component in soft tissue such as tendons and ligaments. Hence ultrasound may accelerate the proliferative phase of tissue healing. It is thought to improve the extensibility of mature collagen and so can have a positive effect to on fibrous scar tissue which may form after an injury.
Common Injuries/conditions treated with Ultrasound:
- arthritis and joint pain
- joint contracture or tightness
- ligament sprains and injuries
- muscle strains and tears
- frozen shoulder
- joint inflammation
- plantar fasciitis
- facet irritation
- impingement syndrome
- scar tissue adhesion
Therapeutic ultrasound has been shown to cause increases in:
- healing rates
- tissue relaxation
- tissue heating
- local blood flow
- scar tissue breakdown
Find out today how Therapeutic ultrasound can help you!
57 Dundas Way
Markham, ON L6E 0R7
|Monday||10am – 5:30 pm|
|Tuesday||12pm – 7 pm|
|Thursday||12pm – 7 pm|
|Friday||10am – 5:30 pm|
|Saturday:||9am – 3pm|
Angela Samuels, RMT
57 Dundas Way
Markham, ON L6E 0R7