Therapeutic ultrasound has been used by physical therapists and occupational therapists to treat acute and chronic pain conditions and to promote tissue healing since 1940. Therapeutic ultrasound is used primarily for the deep heating treatment of soft tissue and for non-thermal effects (cavitation).
Therapeutic ultrasound treatments are performed using the ultrasound probe of an ultrasound unit. A transmission coupling gel is applied and the ultrasound transducer (sound head) of the probe is placed in direct contact with the patient’s skin and moved in small circular directions. The ultrasonic sound waves produced by the ultrasound unit and transmitted through the probe’s sound head cannot be heard but are able pass through the skin to damaged soft tissue and joints. The sound waves help heal soft tissue by increasing local blood flow, relaxing stiff tissue and breaking down scar tissue. In non-thermal effects for joint pain, the ultrasonic waves cause synovial cavitation in the joint cavity, which reduces the pressure in the joint and relieves pain.
Therapeutic ultrasound is used to treat a variety of conditions including:
- Muscle spasms
- Muscle, ligament and tendon tears
- Bursitis and tendinitis of the rotator cuff in the shoulder, Achilles tendon in the ankle and other tendons throughout the body
- Bursae and joint inflammation or fluid (effusions)
- Chronic joint swelling
- Early changes of rheumatoid arthritis
- Nerve impingements/entrapments
- Knee conditions, such as Patellar Tendonitis, ACL tear, Meniscal tear, IT Band Syndrome, Popliteal Tendinitis and Baker’s Cyst
- Foot conditions, such as Plantar Fasciitis, Metatarsalgia and tendon/ligament sprains and strains
- Cartilage defects in the knee at the femoral condyle and meniscus
- Cartilage defects in the labrum of the shoulder and hip
Following a comprehensive evaluation, your physical therapist will determine if ultrasound therapy is appropriate for your condition and implement it as part of your overall treatment program.