Physiotherapy Treatment : Ultrasound Therapy

“Ultrasound” to us is only a diagnostic technique – to generate images of the womb, bones, or internal organs. A little-known fact is that ultrasound has therapeutic applications as well. Ultrasound therapy is a treatment tool used by physical and occupational therapists.

Ultrasound Therapy is used for its non-thermal effect, in which high-frequency sound waves cause biological fluids to vibrate and move. Ultrasound therapy, using a probe and gel is used in a circular motion over the affected area. Ultrasound is effective in three folds. First, it increases blood flow in the treated area. Secondly, it decreases pain from the reduction of swelling and edema. Thirdly, the gentle massage of muscle tendons and/ or ligaments in the treated area adds no strain and scar tissue is softened.

Ultrasound therapy being safe is commonly used to treat various conditions like muscle strains and other sports injuries, osteoarthritis, and joint inflammation. Ultrasound therapy is generally beneficial in improving functionality, movement restrains and pain of all kinds. This is a safe and efficient method of physiotherapy.

What is Ultrasound Physiotherapy Treatment?

Ultrasound is a common physical therapy treatment that is thought to speed healing by providing heat to injured tissues. A physiotherapist can adjust the intensity or power density of the ultrasound, depending on the desired effect. A higher power density may also soften or break down scar tissue so it should always be treated by a well-trained therapist.

Therapeutic ultrasound allows an increase in local blood flow that may help reduce swelling and chronic inflammation and, promote bone fracture healing. This heat helps to decrease pain, and improve how stretchy your injured body part is to help increase range of motion and flexibility.

The application of ultrasound during the inflammatory, proliferative, and repair phases is not of value because it changes the normal sequence of events, but because it has the capacity to stimulate or enhance these normal events and thus increase the efficiency of the repair phases. It would appear that if a tissue is repairing in a compromised or inhibited fashion, the application of therapeutic ultrasound at an appropriate dose will enhance this activity. If the tissue is healing ‘normally’, the physiotherapy will, speed up the process and thus enable the tissue to reach its endpoint faster than would otherwise be the case. The effective application of ultrasound to achieve these aims is dose-dependent.

How does Ultrasound Physical Therapy work?

Ultrasound can provide deep heating to soft tissue structures in the body. Ultrasound therapy involves the use of a metallic probe. The procedure begins with the application of gel either on the head of the probe or directly to the skin. This gel basically helps the sound waves penetrate into the skin evenly. After the gel is applied, this probe is then continuously moved over the selected area for over 5 to 10 min. The intensity or the power of ultrasound is adjusted as per the desired effect. Some people may feel a mild pulsing during this therapy while others may feel slight warmth in the selected area. Deep heating tendons, muscles, or ligaments have benefits like increased circulation to tissues, speeding the healing process, leading to a decrease in pain, and increasing elasticity.

What to Expect during ultrasound Physiotherapy?

Uses of ultrasound in physiotherapy include these: to heat tissues and introduce energy into the body. Physical therapists can use primarily two methods:

Deep Heating: Physical therapists might use therapeutic ultrasound to provide deep heating to soft tissue to increase blood circulation to those tissues. This promotes healing and decreases pain. This treatment also improves the flexibility of muscles to restore a full range of motion.

Cavitation: Physical therapists use ultrasound energy to cause rapid contraction and expansion of microscopic gas bubbles (cavitation) around injured tissue. This, theoretically, speeds healing.

Generally, physical therapists apply conductive gel to the body part in focus. They slowly move the transducer head back and forth on the skin of the body part in focus. Depending on the specific condition, therapists may adjust the depth of penetration of the waves. Commonly the treatment is typically not performed more than once per day.

How Ultrasound Physiotherapy is effective in chronic pain?

Ultrasound physiotherapy is used in chronic pain by improving tissue extensibility and circulation, leading to increased mobility and, ultimately, decreased pain. A low-intensity Pulsed Ultrasound (LIPUS) can be used for fracture repair also. Ultrasound therapy also helps in increasing the blood flow to enhance the healing process not only of muscles but also joints and ligaments.

Ultrasound physiotherapy treatment is also used to soften scar tissue and can do wonders in management of the Knee Osteoarthritis (OA). Ultrasound is also recommended by physical therapists if there is frozen shoulder or intense shoulder pain. Such therapy is usually done before performing a range of motion exercises because it can help improve the ability of your shoulder to stretch.

Situations in which ultrasounds should not be used

Ultrasound Therapy is a very low-risk, non-invasive procedure. But there are certain times when and when it should be avoided.

Ultrasound may alter the electrical signals around your heart and is not applied to people who have cardiovascular issues. Ultrasound may also interfere with the pacemaker’s normal function. 

Ultrasound is not applied over the abdomen, pelvic regions, or lower back in pregnant or menstruating women. The effect of therapeutic ultrasound on a developing human fetus has not been fully explored and therefore should be avoided during pregnancy. 

It is not applied around the eyes as it may damage the retina. The effect of ultrasound used on reproductive organs like the testes or ovaries should be avoided. It is not applied over broken skin or healing fractures, or joint replacements since it may rapidly heat this joint replacement and damage surrounding body parts.

It is not applied over or near the areas with malignant tumors. Since ultrasound may increase cellular activity, it should not be used over cancerous areas of the body as this is thought to increase the chances of metastasis.

Connect with a Physiotherapist for a better experience

If there is an ultrasound prescribed as physiotherapy treatment, it’s wise to choose a well-trained and experienced physical therapist. Ultrasound should always be part of an overall treatment plan that includes exercise, stretches, or other focused activities. 

A positive physical therapy experience usually involves active patient involvement, and ultrasound should not be the only treatment you receive in physical therapy. A well-educated physical therapist would teach the patients about their specific condition and ensure that they have a strategy to help improve their condition independently. A physical therapist at Physiotattva can be a good guide and help for a better experience.