Ultrasound therapy is used by many physical therapists but just what is it and how can it help you?
Ultrasound is well known for its use during pregnancy to check how the baby is doing and monitor its health and growth progress. However the mechanisms behind ultrasound imaging can also be applied in a therapeutic setting to treat pain conditions and to promote tissue healing. It has been found to be particularly effective in the treatment of osteoarthritis, myofascial pain, bursitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, pain caused by scar tissue, phantom limb pain and sprains and strains.
Types of Ultrasound Therapy
There are two main types of ultrasound therapy, thermal ultrasound and mechanical ultrasound. Both use sound waves generated through a transducer to penetrate soft tissues. The difference between the two types of ultrasound therapy is the rate at which the sound waves penetrate the tissues. The other difference is what they are used to treat. Thermal ultrasound is used to encourage healing in the soft tissues by increasing the metabolism at the level of the tissue cells and mechanical ultrasound is used to help decrease the inflammatory response, reducing tissue swelling and thus decreasing pain.
The type of ultrasound therapy you will receive depends on your condition. If you have myofascial pain, or had a muscle strain or sprain that has not healed, your Chiropractor will likely use thermal ultrasound therapy. If your pain is caused by scar tissue or swelling, such as with carpal tunnel syndrome, you may benefit more from mechanical ultrasound therapy.
What does it feel like?
Some people feel a mild pulsing during ultrasound therapy, while others may feel slight warmth in the skin. Don’t be surprised, however, if you feel nothing at all, apart from the cold gel on your skin. If the area being treated is especially sensitive to touch, you could possibly feel discomfort as the transducer head passes over. Ultrasound therapy, however, should not be painful.
Does Ultrasound Therapy Really Work?
As with many treatments, the literature is mixed on the benefits of ultrasound therapy. Some studies show that it can effectively control certain types of chronic pain, while others say there is little difference between ultrasound therapy and other traditional therapy treatments such as heat, stretching and electrical stimulation. It is for this reason that ultrasound therapy is never used on its own at Espina Chiropractic Clinic but is used in combination with standard treatments and other available techniques to maximise your response to treatments and help speed up your recovery from injury.