What is Therapeutic Ultrasound?
One tool of many in the Physiotherapist’s ‘toolbox’ is the use of ultrasound for therapeutic purposes. But what is it, how is it applied, and why is it used?
The basics of therapeutic ultrasound
Ultrasound is a type of mechanical energy. Mechanical vibration at increasing frequencies is sound energy, and beyond the upper limit of the human perceptible sound range is known as ultrasound. As the energy within the sound wave is passed to the tissues (e.g. muscle, tendon, ligament, etc.), it will cause oscillation of the particles of the tissues it’s targeting. Any increase in the molecular vibration of the tissues can produce thermal and other changes at the cellular level, which can have a therapeutic effect.
How ultrasound is applied
Most of the ultrasound is reflected at the interface between the ultrasound applicator (transducer) and the air. Even the thin layer of air present when the transducer is placed on the skin has to be overcome, which is achieved with a suitable coupling medium. Physiotherapists use a water-based gel, which allows the sound waves to pass to, then through, the skin into deeper layers of tissue. The user can adjust the settings which control intensity and depth in order to target certain structures.
Why use ultrasound?
Therapeutic ultrasound uses different parameters from diagnostic ultrasound, the latter of which is used to generate images of organs or other soft tissues. In contrast, the goal of the application of ultrasound to injured tissues is to speed the rate of healing as well as enhance the quality of the repair. The process of tissue repair is a complex series of chemically mediated events that leads to the restoration of the continuity of the damaged tissue. Ultrasound has a stimulating effect on particular cells which assist with accelerating the healing response.
The application of therapeutic ultrasound can also influence the remodelling of scar tissue in that it is capable of enhancing the appropriate orientation of the newly formed collagen fibres. This results in increasing its tensile strength, as well as improved scar mobility. Since the remodelling phase of injured tissue can last many months, application after the initial phase of healing can be beneficial.
At CURAVITA Health Group, therapeutic ultrasound is applied by our Physiotherapists. When used, it is part of a comprehensive treatment plan that consists of other aspects, such as manual therapy and exercise prescription. If you’re injured or in pain, do not hesitate to contact us to book an initial assessment.