Ultrasound Therapy – Benefits, Risks, And Side Effects

Many of us have a perception that ultrasound technology is used to generate images of pregnancy. But this diagnostic ultrasound is just one of the many applications of ultrasound technology. Therapeutic ultrasound is another mostly used technology for physical and occupational therapy. It is a bit different from what we consider regular medical ultrasound for examining patients. Therapeutic Ultrasound is an effective modality. The application of ultrasound has been accepted for therapeutic purposes for many years. It is being applied to promote healing processes such as treating chronic pain or medical conditions such as ligament injuries and tendonitis. 

In this technology, the ultrasound machine produces sound waves at the range of 0.8- 3.0 MHz. These waves produce heat from within the target area of the body and help in the healing process. It is not electrotherapy, rather mechanical energy where mechanical vibration increases sound energy—the frequency used in therapy according to the patient’s condition.

The waves consist of the area of compression oscillate with the wave itself. Increasing molecular vibration can generate heat to produce thermal energy, which is suggested for injured tissue and speedy healing. There is no doubt that ultrasound leads to the most demanding therapy nowadays for its numerous health benefits. A recent survey shows 47.9 percent therapist uses ultrasound for 75% of patients. Today, we will know more about ultrasound therapy. 

What is Ultrasound?

Ultrasound is considered an effective way of physical therapy that produces high-frequency sound waves and therapeutic heat. In terms of ultrasound, equipment produces high-frequency sounds waves via a round-headed probe. The sound waves penetrate the deep tissues and produce heat. Ultrasonic therapy generates deep heat to treat such medical conditions. Those heats induce targeted tissue by increasing blood flow and removes cell wastages.

Deep heat is a highly effective way to increase blood circulation, promote healing, and decreasing pain. This process pushes energy and makes a rapid contraction of cavitation, which helps injured tissues to get speedy recovery. 

How Does Ultrasound Therapy Work?

The process of ultrasound can be administrated by the ultrasound doctor or a physical therapist. Ultrasound waves are applied directly to the patient’s skin with a layer of protective gel. This hypoallergenic gel creates a friction-free surface. Usually, an ultrasound therapy session takes around 3 to 5 minutes. In some cases, it takes longer, around 10 minutes. Through the round-headed wand, the therapist applies this gel in the circular motion gently. This gel can protect from overheating the skin surfaces. By using gentle circulation, the therapist starts administrating the treatment.

The waves enter the body and convert into heating energy within the targeted tissue area. The heat then stimulates the blood flow in the area. Theoretically, this increased blood circulation helps to heal the pains and muscle spasms. Ultrasound therapy also helps to relax tight muscles and soft tissues. Increasing circulation gradually helps to reduce muscle pain and relieve muscle tension. For phonophoresis, therapists apply ultrasound, adding anti-inflammatory drugs to the gel. The ultrasonic sound forces migrate into the tissues beneath and recover inflammation. This inflammatory medication is highly effective in treating sprains or injuries.

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Benefits of Ultrasound Therapy

There are certain health benefits of ultrasound therapy. The therapist depends on this process more than other therapy. 

  • Increasing blood flow: The heat helps to increase blood flow which can treat the injured areas. Increasing blood flow reduces swelling and chronic inflammations. There are several health benefits your body can get from this process. 
  • Pain management: It is already proven that ultrasound therapy alleviates pain. Besides heeling deep tissue areas it also decreases muscle spasms. This treatment is also helpful for muscle tightness and reduces all types of pain especially tendonitis, shoulder pain, back pain, etc.
  • Relax tissues: Therapeutic ultrasound treats surgical wounds by increasing blood flows. It affects cell metabolism and makes healing fluids. Muscle tissue can damage any time for accidental fall or fracture. The deep heat can relieve tissue tension and relax overall tissues which reduces pain.
  • Penetrate Tissue: Ultrasound wave penetrates the skin tissues and produces heat. This therapy penetrates deeper musculature while the sound wave causes vibration. It also increases friction so that target tissue can rise to heat. For this process, deep heat helps to relax joint tissues. 
  • Reduce inflammation: Ultrasound therapy increases the range of motion besides increasing blood flow and helps to reduce inflammation. 

Types of Ultrasound Therapy

Two types of ultrasound therapy can be used; thermal and non-thermal. The basic difference between these two ultrasounds processes is the rate of the sound waves. For both purposes, the therapist uses a transducer head. 

1. Thermal

In this term, deep heat enters the skin and muscle and makes a vibration. This vibration heats the area and increases blood flow. Increasing circulation and blood flow help to reduce pain and inflammation. Thermal ultrasound therapy is more useful for treating tissue, stretch pain, fracture, and musculoskeletal issues. This heat also works for relaxing muscles or loosen tight muscles and tendons. Even this therapy is also effective for some advanced issues like prostate cancer. 

2. Mechanical ultrasound therapy

It is a non-thermal procedure, and this therapy is called cavitation ultrasound therapy. In this process, waves put pressure on tissues which can make bubbles, and these bubbles interact with objects and create shockwaves. This shock wave is a specific way to transfer heat and break down objects like kidney stones. 

Is Ultrasound Therapy Safe?

Ultrasound therapy is a safe and pain-free process that anybody can go through under the supervision of a doctor or licensed physical therapist. In few cases, patients feel a tingling sensation on the application area for few minutes, and the sensation goes away quickly. It is recommended that licensed professionals should administrate therapeutic ultrasound. You must notify your therapist if you feel any discomfort. 

Some situations or conditions where ultrasound cannot be used. The patient should alert the ultrasound doctor of any of the following situations:

  • A cardiac pacemaker
  • Soreness and infection or malignancy on the area
  • A healing fracture on the area
  • Implanted medical devices. 

There are various configurations; professionals should use particular devices. Professionals should be highly concerned about all contraindication and precaution before applying the therapy. The therapist should use high-quality FDA evaluated equipment for ultrasounds.

The therapist must focus on area and pressure. Rapid pressure changing while the cavitation process can damage cellular activity. It has the potential risk to apply heat in the same place for too long.

See More: K-Laser Therapy: Benefits, Side Effects, And Cost

What is Ultrasound Therapy Used For?

Few physical conditions are specially treated by ultrasound therapy. For sports injuries, tendonitis, lower back pain, frozen shoulder, and other ligaments and tendon injury, ultrasound therapy is effective and helpful. Recently, ultrasound therapy is being used for breaking calcified stones. Also, it can be used for increasing blood flow, burning off cell waste, increasing circulation, increasing motion, etc. 

  • Tendonitis: Ultrasound therapy is quite effective to treat chronic tendon pain. It can treat to relieve pain by removing damaged tissues.
  • Muscle sprain: This therapy can reduce muscle sprain and relax muscles. 
  • Osteoarthritis: The deep heat of ultrasound responds well with some chronic issues such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid, and others. 
  • Fracture: Low-intensity ultrasound can heal bone fractures or certain types of stress fractures. 
  • Calcified stone: Nowadays, doctors treat calcified stones by applying ultrasound therapy. They are are using this technology for removing gallbladder and kidney stones. 

FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions

Does therapeutic Ultrasound hurt?

Though it is a non-invasive and safe process, you may feel the temperature only. You may also feel a tingling sensation just during the session, which is not unbearable. Due to less contraindication, most therapists consider this process as one of the safe therapy among other physical therapy. 

Can anyone use therapeutic ultrasound?

Generally, therapeutic ultrasound is safe except few conditions, including hemophilia. This therapy is not appropriate for those who have a pacemaker. Who has received a cortisone injection in the past 30 days should not be applicable for the ultrasound. You should notice your therapist about any sores or any active infection. Therapists should avoid direct contact in those particular areas. 

How often should you go for ultrasound therapy?

Usually, the therapist takes around 6 to 12 ultrasound therapy sessions, and each session takes from 5 to 10 minutes. The therapist recommends the session twice a week. He or she will examine you first and make a plan for how many sessions you need. For chronic issues, you need several sessions for the treatment process. 

Final Word

Ultrasound therapy is a noninvasive procedure to treat certain physical conditions. It is the most suitable option when typical treatment is not suitable for the patient. In general, this therapy session can be done quickly without any pain, and it is also one of the cost-effective procedures. That’s why people are more interested in this therapy module.

There are several health benefits of ultrasound. This therapy is appropriate for a wide range of medical conditions, including treating chronic issues. This process encourages healing, removes fluids, and fights inflammation. It will treat not only the muscle but also joints and ligaments. Sometimes it is completely unsuitable in different cases what we have already discussed. Here we emphasize consulting with a doctor before taking ultrasound therapy and choosing any licensed and professional therapist.