Therapeutic Ultrasound is commonly used in clinical practice with the purpose of stimulating soft tissue repair and for pain relief.

Ultrasound uses high frequency sound waves that are inaudible to the human ear.  The mechanical effect of these sounds waves causes vibrations that travels through our tissues.

Ultrasounds treatments are broadly divided into 2 categories:  Thermal or Non Thermal.

Thermal Effects

The goal of this type of ultrasound is to provide a deep heating effect.  Ultrasound waves travel well through tissues high in water content and are absorbed by tissues with high in protein content.  The absorption of the energy in protein rich tissues is was causes the heating.  The effects of heating tissues include:

  1. Improving circulation
  2. Decreasing joint stiffness
  3. Reducing muscle spasms
  4. Decreasing pain

Non Thermal Effects

Non Thermal (pulsed) ultrasound can lead to increased permeability of cell membranes to sodium an calcium by biophysical processes called cavitation and microstreaming.  Increased calcium stimulates productions of histamines which attracts leukocytes and monocytes.  These cells are an important part of the inflammatory phase of tissue healing.   They assist with cleaning up debris resulting from the injury and forming new connective tissue.

This is how ultrasound is thought to accelerate healing.

There are some contraindications to using ultrasound including pregnancy, malignancy, infection, and decreased temperature sensation.  Discuss with your physiotherapist if ultrasound is right for you.

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