Ultrasound is often associated with those cute baby pictures in a mother’s tummy, but therapeutic ultrasound in physiotherapy practice is an effective modality used to treat pain and other symptoms.
Therapeutic ultrasound has a long history of use in physiotherapy practice, though the emphasis has changed over the last 15–20 years. The current emphasis is the enhancement of repair of soft (musculoskeletal) tissues following injury, insult or irritation, and the evidence for its value in these areas is considerable.
In this article we explore the use of ultrasound as a physiotherapy treatment option with Nutnarinee Lerdsatittroong, better known as Khun Prahn. She’s the founder of Hua Hin’s ‘The Movement Clinic’, offering a range of services all about improving mobility.
Khun Prahn understands that ultrasound can provide deep heating to soft tissue structures in the body. She says ultrasound is effective in three folds. First, it increases blood flow in the treated area. Secondly, it decreases pain with a reduction of swelling, inflammation and edema. Thirdly, the gentle massage of muscle tendons and/ or ligaments in the treated area adds no strain and scar tissue is softened.
Ultrasound produces soundwaves that generate mechanical energy. These waves cause oscillation and vibration of the molecules after entering into the tissue. Depending on the settings chosen, ultrasound can generate thermal effects or non-thermal effects.
Deep Heating: Physiotherapists use therapeutic ultrasound to provide deep heating to soft tissue to increase blood circulation to those tissues.
Cavitation: Physiotherapists also use ultrasound energy to cause rapid contraction and expansion of microscopic gas bubbles (cavitation) around injured tissue to speed-up healing.
Therapeutic ultrasound helps reduce swelling and chronic inflammation and, promote bone fracture healing. This helps to decrease pain, and improve the range of motion and flexibility.
Ultrasound therapy involves the use of a transducer (sound head) which is attached to the ultrasound machine.
The procedure begins with the application of gel either on the head of the probe or directly to the skin. This gel basically helps the sound waves penetrate into the skin evenly. After the gel is applied, the probe is then continuously moved over the selected area.
The machine will be set to deliver the appropriate depth and intensity of sound wave required and generally be timed for a treatment of no longer than ten minutes.
You will most likely not feel anything happening throughout the ultrasound treatment. Some people may feel a mild pulsing during this therapy while others may feel a slight warmth in the selected area.
Ultrasound therapy is used to treat various conditions including:
- muscle strains, tears, spasms and other sports injuries
- rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis,
- ligament and tendon and joint inflammation/contracture (including frozen shoulder)
- acute and chronic inflammation, including bursitis – the painful inflammation of small, fluid-filled sacs that cushion the bones, tendons and muscles near your joints.
Ultrasound therapy is generally beneficial in improving functionality, movement restraints and pain of all kinds and hasten the healing rate of certain soft tissues.
An increased blood flow to an area stimulates the production of collagen (the main protein in tendons and ligaments) during tissue healing. If a tissue is repairing in a compromised or inhibited fashion, the application of therapeutic ultrasound will enhance this activity. If the tissue is healing ‘normally’, the physiotherapy will speed up the process for the tissue to reach its endpoint faster.
Deep heating tendons, muscles, or ligaments increases blood circulation to tissues, speeding the healing process, leading to a decrease in pain, and increasing elasticity.
Ultrasound Therapy is a very low-risk, non-invasive procedure but is not used with people who have cardiovascular issues. Ultrasound may also interfere with a pacemaker’s normal function.
Ultrasound is not applied over the abdomen, pelvic regions, the lower back in pregnancy or to reproductive organs. It is not applied over broken skin or near areas with malignant tumors or cancerous areas of the body.
See this video from the ultrasound machine manufacturer: https://youtu.be/gq5bc6r1ORw
Ultrasound therapy is just one of the treatment options offered by Khun Prahn at The Movement Physiotherapy Clinic. You’ll understand more during an early discussion of a personalised treatment plan.
To see more about The Movement Clinic follow this link https://royalcoastreview.com/2022/03/changing-lives-through-movement-a-thai-physiotherapists-mission-in-hua-hin/