Ultrasound Use in Physical Therapy
Ultrasound equipment creates high frequency sound waves which can be transferred to an area of the body through a microphone-shaped transducer. Therapeutic ultrasound sends the sound waves, which generate gentle heat, deep into muscles or joints for pain relief. Physical therapy ultrasound uses more intense sound waves than diagnostic ultrasound. This treatment is considered an adjunct to physical therapy involving exercise.
The physical therapist administers ultrasound by applying a gel to the skin to eliminate friction, and then uses circular motions with the probe for several minutes to deliver the sound waves.
Heat from the ultrasound waves improves circulation and brings blood to the tissues, delivering oxygen and nutrients, and removing cellular waste.
Ultrasound in physical therapy is most effective in healing deep joint tissue, according to physician Gerard Malanga, director of pain management at Overlook Hospital in Summit, New Jersey.
Range of Motion
Malanga notes that ultrasound facilitates the stretching of connective tissue, and is beneficial for improving range of motion. An example is improving movement in people suffering from chronic low back pain.
Ultrasound also can send topical anti-inflammatory agents into tissues, as a non-invasive way of administering medication to areas below the skin.