Ultrasound Therapy

ultrasound treatment icon


Ultrasound therapy is the use of sound waves to treat medical problems, especially musculoskeletal problems like inflammation from injuries such as sprains, tendinitis, or bursitis. It is a treatment used by physiotherapists or occupational therapists to relieve pain and to promote tissue healing.

ultrasound therapy demonstration

What is Ultrasound Therapy For?

Therapeutic ultrasound is often used for treating chronic pain and promoting tissue healing. It may be recommended if you experience any of the following conditions:

  • Osteoarthritis/Bursitis
  • Myofascial pain
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Pain caused by scar tissue
  • Phantom limb pain
  • Sprains and strains

Types of Ultrasound Therapy

There are two main types of ultrasound therapy. Both use sound waves generated by a transducer head (which looks a bit like a microphone) to penetrate soft tissues. The difference between the two types of ultrasound therapy is the rate at which the sound waves penetrate the tissues. The types are:

  • Thermal ultrasound therapy
  • Mechanical ultrasound therapy
ultrasound therapy demonstration 2
physiotherapy rehabilitation for patient knee

Thermal Ultrasound Therapy

Thermal ultrasound therapy uses a more continuous transmission of sound waves. The sound waves cause microscopic vibrations in the deep tissue molecules, increasing heat and friction. The warming effect encourages healing in the soft tissues by increasing the metabolism at the level of the tissue cells.

Mechanical Ultrasound Therapy

Mechanical ultrasound therapy uses pulses of sound waves to penetrate tissues. While this still has a minor warming effect on the tissues, it also causes expansion and contraction in the tiny gas bubbles of the soft tissues. This helps to decrease the inflammatory response, reducing tissue swelling, and thus decreasing pain.

physiotherapist treats knee surgery wound

The type of ultrasound therapy you receive depends on your condition. If you have myofascial pain or a muscle strain or sprain that has not healed, your therapist will likely use thermal ultrasound therapy. If your pain is caused by scar tissue or swelling, such as with carpal tunnel syndrome, you may benefit more from mechanical ultrasound therapy.

How is Ultrasound Therapy Performed?

Your therapist will select a small surface area to work on for anywhere from five to 10 minutes. A gel is applied either to the transducer head or to your skin, which helps the sound waves evenly penetrate the skin. During your ultrasound therapy treatment, your therapist will continually move the transducer head over and around the selected area.

Will I Feel Anything During Ultrasound Therapy?

Some people feel a mild pulsing during ultrasound therapy, while others may feel a slight warmth in the skin. Don’t be surprised, however, if you feel nothing at all, apart from the cold gel on your skin. If the area being treated is especially sensitive to touch, you could possibly feel minor discomfort as the transducer head passes over. Ultrasound therapy, however, should not be painful.

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