How Does Ultrasound Therapy Work For Physical Therapy?
Therapeutic ultrasound is a method of treatment used by physiotherapists since the 1940s. This ultrasound therapy is applied using the head of an ultrasound probe that is placed directly on the skin with the aid of transmission coupling gel. Therapeutic ultrasound has been shown to increase things like:
- Healing rates
- Tissue relaxation
- Tissue heating
- Local blood flow
- Scar tissue breakdown
Therapeutic ultrasound is used to heal soft tissues in the body, like ligaments, joints, tendons, and muscles. When used for physical therapy, there are two different effects. These are deep heating treatment and non-thermal uses.
Deep Heating Effects
Ultrasound therapy is most often used to provide deep heating to soft tissue structures in the body. Deep heating the tissues mentioned above increases circulation to those tissues, which is believed to help with the healing process. The increased temperature of the tissue also helps decrease the pain in those tissues.
Deep heating can help decrease the feeling of tightness in muscles and tendons as well. If you’ve been diagnosed with “frozen shoulder” and experience shoulder pain, therapeutic ultrasound may be used to improve the extensibility of the tissues around your shoulder to increase range of motion.
This is also sometimes known as cavitation. The ultrasound introduces energy to the body. The energy causes very tiny gas bubbles around the tissues to expand and contract rapidly. It is thought that the expansion and contraction of the bubbles help speed up cellular processes and improves healing of injured tissue.
There are two types of non-thermal effects or cavitation. They include stable and unstable cavitation. Stable cavitation is used when the physical therapist applies ultrasound to the body. Unstable cavitation is dangerous to the tissues in your body, and your physical therapist will not use this method during ultrasound application.
Therapeutic ultrasound can be used for a variety of conditions, including bursitis, tendonitis, muscle strains and tears, frozen shoulder, sprains and ligament injuries, joint contracture or tightness, and even chronic pain. Therapeutic ultrasound is only one tactic used in physical therapy, however, so it is important to follow through with the exercises and programs so you can improve your functional mobility.