Ultrasound is another modality that physical therapists can use to help a patient with their pain. Ultrasound is essentially a machine that uses sound waves to generate heat within a body part. What the therapist will do with the patient is use a sound head or something that you would see similar in a doctor's office where they do sonograms on pregnant women, and they put a little gel on the sound head and your body part. And, in a circular motion, we just rub the sound head on, say, your shoulder joint, and what that will do is generate heat in that joint, which will help with overall blood flow circulation. It will also help loosen up tissues to allow them to respond better to stretch or any other manual techniques that the therapist will be using such as to loosen up tight joints or tight muscles. It also helps prepare the body part for just general activity before an exercise program. Ultrasound can also be helpful in acute injuries for non-thermal effects, meaning no heat is generated, but it can help increase blood flow so that way inflammation or swelling can be reduced.
Ultrasound therapy machines are used primarily by chiropractors and physical therapists to treat joint pain, arthritis pain and muscle pain. Case studies have found that therapeutic ultrasound can alleviate people’s pain and also augment their healing.
How Does It Work?
During ultrasound therapy, a handheld transducer will generate high frequency sound waves that penetrate deeply into the tissues. The ultrasonic waves are targeted at the injured or most painful area of the body to alleviate symptoms.
Most ultrasound therapy machines will be handheld and have a rounded crystal probe head. After applying ultrasound gel, the ultrasound head should be moved in small circular motions during treatment. The handheld ultrasound transducer emits ultrasonic waves that travel through the body causing micro-vibrations in the tissues of the body. These vibrations heat tissues, such as tendons, ligaments and muscles, promoting blood flow at the injury site. This increased blood flow is the main aim of ultrasound therapy because it allows large amounts of nutrients and oxygen to reach affected cell tissues.