What is ultrasound therapy?
Ultrasound therapy has been used by physiotherapists since the 1950’s and remains a popular and evidenced intervention for a variety of injuries. It is the same technology as the ultrasound that is used to scan babies but in this case there is no image being taken, it is just the therapeutic effect of the soundwave that is being utilised.
It is a form of mechanical energy that uses high frequency sound waves to affect the healing process within the body. It is applied with an ultrasound probe which is placed on the skin via a transmission gel. A treatment session usually lasts between 5 and10 minutes.
The tissue healing process
When a tissue such as muscle or ligament is damaged, local blood flow and swelling brings an inflammatory soup of chemicals that begins the healing process. New tissue known as scar tissue is formed and laid down. As the scar tissue is generated, the fibres that make up the scar tissue are often laid down in an unorganised fashion. If the fibres of a tissue are unorganised or not correctly aligned they are not as strong or as flexible as the original tissue. Sometimes if this scar tissue remains unorganised it can leave us with tight and/or weak muscle or ligament even once healing is complete.
How does ultrasound work?
When tissue is exposed to ultrasound, the sound waves cause a micro-vibration within the tissue. This vibration creates heat energy that increases blood flow to the area. This increased blood flow causes an increase in oxygen and chemicals that are essential for healing of the damaged tissue.
As well as increasing blood flow, ultrasound has the additional effect of speeding up the transport of chemicals from the blood into the damaged tissue to aid the healing of the tissue. This helps with building of new tissue and also helps to ensure the proper alignment of the tissue fibres to ensure full strength and flexibility is restored.
The end result is that ultrasound helps the body to heal and build new tissue in the quickest and most effective way possible.
What injuries do we use ultrasound for?
Ultrasound is most effective when used for soft tissue injuries including:
Tennis and golfers elbow
Scar tissue adhesions
Bruising and contusion
Depending on the intensity settings it can be a very useful treatment adjunct in acute injuries as well as chronic long-term injuries, helping us to make a quick and full recovery.