How Does an Ultrasound Work?
Ultrasound is applied using the head of an ultrasound probe that is placed in direct contact with your skin via a transmission coupling gel. The ultrasound waves are generated by a piezoelectric effect caused by the vibration of crystals within the head of the probe. The ultrasound waves that pass through the skin cause a vibration of the local soft tissues. This vibration or cavitation can cause a deep heating locally though usually no sensation of heat will be felt by the patient. In situations where a heating effect is not desirable, such as a fresh injury with acute inflammation, the ultrasound can be pulsed rather than continuously transmitted.
Therapeutic ultrasound has been shown to cause increases in:
local blood flow
scar tissue breakdown.
How Can Ultrasound Help You?
The effect of ultrasound via an increase in local blood flow can be used to help reduce local swelling and chronic inflammation, and, according to some studies, promote bone fracture healing. The intensity or power density of the ultrasound can be adjusted depending on the desired effect.
The most common conditions treated with ultrasound include soft tissue injuries such as tendonitis (or tendinitis if you prefer), non-acute joint swelling and muscle spasm. Most muscle and ligament injuries can benefit from therapeutic ultrasound.
When Should Ultrasound be Avoided?
Contraindications of ultrasound include local malignancy, metal implants below the area being treated, local acute infection, vascular abnormalities, and directly on the abdomen of pregnant women. It is also contraindicated to apply ultrasound directly over active epiphyseal regions (growth plates) in children, over the spinal cord in a laminectomy, or over the eyes, skull, or testes.
Like all medical equipment, when used by highly trained professionals such as our team members at Complete Rehabilitation Services, therapeutic ultrasound is very unlikely to cause any adverse effects. Please talk to your doctor today about the benefits of starting physical therapy or contact one of our four locations!