The basic principle behind ultrasound is that it stimulates tissue through sound waves. The mechanical vibrations of the sound waves transmit energy into the tissues and promote the healing process within soft tissue injuries.
Ultrasound has been a popular form of therapy since the 1950’s worldwide to treat musculoskeletal problems, such as tendinitis and bursitis. The treatment is brief and painless, and is regularly used in combination with another treatment modality.
Scientific Evidence behind Ultrasound
Unfortunately, the scientific evidence behind therapeutic ultrasound is still being disputed, over 50 years later! The reason being is the lack of evidence available explaining exactly what it is that causes the “therapeutic effect” in the injured tissue. So, taking this into consideration, how has Ultrasound become the phenomenon that it has worldwide? Well, practitioners continue to use this treatment modality relying solely on personal experience and patient’s feedback, where great results are frequently successful.
Types of Ultrasound
There are two types of ultrasound, thermal & non-thermal. The thermal effect is caused by an increase in vibration of the metal head.
Effects of Thermal Ultrasound include:
- Increase blood flow locally
- Increase cellular metabolism
- Increase the extensibility of connective tissue through heat
- Decrease pain and muscle spasm
Thermal ultrasound is regularly applied to muscle spasm, contusions, localized inflammation & pain (i.e. ligament sprains, tendon strains, scar tissue and fibrous joint capsules).
Can anybody have Ultrasound?
Ultrasound is suitable for most patients, the only time it is only not recommended is if you are in early stages of injury (up to 72 hours after injury), if you suffer from DVTs or acute infection, if you have a pacemaker fitted, it also can not be applied to open skin, major nerves, the cranium, fractures or malignancies or cancerous tissues. Finally, it should not be applied to anybody in the early stages of myositis ossificans.
Benefits of Ultrasound
Taking into consideration the lack of scientific evidence, the following information is based purely on past experiences of fellow practitioners and myself.
Ultrasound has an effect on inflammation as well as having a positive effect on the proliferative phase of tissue healing (repair process). After treatment, it has been noted that the healing time of soft tissue injuries is decreased through attracting more cells to the site of injury, which in turn increases blood flow, transporting nutrients to the injured area and removing any toxins away.
Ultrasound has also been said to increase the production of collagen, collagen being the main protein component in soft tissue that explains the acceleration of tissue healing.
Finally, ultrasound increases the extensibility of mature collagen and can have a positive effect on decreasing fibrous scar tissue.
Sports therapy with Ultrasound may be beneficial for conditions like;
- Ligament sprains
- Muscle strains
- Joint inflammation
- Plantar fasciitis
- Facet irritation
- Impingement syndrome
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Scar tissue adhesion
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