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Ultrasound Physical Therapy

Therapeutic ultrasound is a treatment modality commonly used in physical therapy. It is used to provide deep heating to soft tissues in the body. These tissues include muscles, tendons, joints, and ligaments. Therapeutic ultrasound is used primarily for deep heating treatment and for non-thermal uses. Ultrasound is used to both relieve pain and promote healing of the affected area. Your therapist may use ultrasound for low back pain, neck pain, rotator cuff tears, knee meniscus tears, or ankle sprains.

 

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 place on your skin and not moved in a circular direction, you may experience pain. If this occurs, tell your physical therapist right away.

 

What exactly does ultrasound do?

Therapeutic ultrasound is used primarily for two different effects: the deep heating treatment and non-thermal uses.

  • Deep heating effects - Ultrasound is often used to provide deep heating to soft tissue structures in the body. Deep heating tendons, muscles 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 physical 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 the healing of injured tissue.

Two types of cavitation include stable and unstable cavitation. Stable cavitation is desired when your physical therapist is applying ultrasound to your body. Unstable cavitation can be dangerous to your body's tissues, and your physical therapist will ensure that this does not occur during the application of ultrasound.

 
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Ultrasound Uses

Usually, orthopedic injuries are treated with ultrasound. These may include:

  • Bursitis

  • Tendonitis

  • Muscle strains and tears

  • Frozen shoulder

  • Sprains and ligament injuries

  • Joint contracture or tightness


Generally speaking, any soft-tissue injury in the body may be a candidate for ultrasound therapy. Your physical therapist may use ultrasound for low back pain, neck pain, rotator cuff tears, knee meniscus tears, or ankle sprains.

There is some evidence that if you have chronic pain, you may benefit from ultrasound treatments. It is thought that the ultrasound waves help improve tissue extensibility and circulation, leading to increased mobility and, ultimately, decreased pain. Ultrasound may not work for everyone, but it is worth a try if you have chronic, unremitting pain. Some people may argue that the benefit of ultrasound for chronic pain is due to the placebo effect. But, if it gives you relief then it is the right treatment for you!

Want to see if ultrasound works for you? Schedule and appointment at our Lake Charles physical therapy clinic.