Many people, having experienced physical improvement through therapeutic ultrasound while under the care of a physical or occupational therapist, a trainer or a chiropractor, purchase a therapeutic ultrasound machine for home use to have better and cheaper access to this technology and its benefits. Caution should be exercised with unlicensed use of these machines as there is the potential to burn tissue beneath the skin if the transducer head remains in one place too long. It is possible that the patient may not feel the occurrence of tissue damage. As with almost every medical procedure, a physician should be consulted before personal use of an ultrasound machine.
What is Ultrasound Therapy?
Ultrasound is a method of penetrating and stimulating soft tissue beneath the skin’s surface using very high frequency sound waves – waves between .7 MHz and 3.3 MHz, a frequency not heard by humans.
Primary benefits to Ultrasound Therapy Include:
- Accelerating the healing process through increased blood flow to the treated area,
- Reducing pain through the reduction of swelling and edema,
- Massaging muscle, tendons and ligaments in the treated area without added strain,
- Softening scar tissue.
The sound waves cause microscopic vibrations in the deep tissue molecules encouraging a warming effect, which encourages healing in the soft tissues by increasing the metabolism in tissue cells. When pulses of sound waves are used, an expansion and contraction of the tiny gas bubbles of the soft tissue helps decrease inflammation, swelling and pain.
Ultrasound therapy may reduce chronic pain related to:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Scar tissue pain
- Phantom limb pain
- Muscle, tendon and ligament strain
Ultrasound therapy is thought to accelerate healing by attracting more mast cells to the injured area and may stimulate the production of collagen.
Application of Ultrasound Therapy
Ultrasound is applied through a round-headed wand or probe in direct contact with the patient’s skin, moving continuously in circular motions. Most applications will last only 3-5 minutes and may be administered 1-2 times daily. Dosages can be varied in intensity and frequency of the ultrasonic beam to achieve a desired effect. Some sessions may last up to 15 minutes. A gel is generally used to increase the effectiveness of the ultrasonic waves (contact with air causes a dissipation of the waves) and to reduce skin irritation. The gel can be applied directly to the skin or placed on the wand.
Ultrasonic therapy should NOT be used:
- Over the abdomen, pelvic regions or lower back of menstruating women
- With pregnant women
- Over lesions, broken skin or acute infections
- Around sexual organs, breasts or eyes
- With malignant or cancerous tissue
- On anyone with a history of venous thrombosis
- On exposed neural tissue
As with any medical procedure, a physician should always be consulted before applying ultrasonic therapy.