You’re probably familiar with ultrasound’s most common use, fetal imaging. However, ultrasound, sometimes called sonography, is also used by medical professionals to diagnose conditions that affect organs and soft tissues (during procedures like needle biopsies) and for therapeutic applications.
“There are two main types of ultrasound therapy: thermal and mechanical. Both use sound waves generated by a transducer head (which looks a bit like a microphone) to penetrate soft tissues”. Of course, the high-frequency sound is inaudible to human ears and can record the size, shape, and consistency of soft tissues and organs. It has been widely used in therapy since the 1950s, and its use continues to expand.
The type of ultrasound therapy you receive will depend on your condition. Thermal ultrasound therapy delivers continuous sound waves and is more commonly used for chronic conditions. Mechanical therapy delivers pulses of sound waves and is used more often on patients who need pain relief from injuries.
Ultrasound therapy has been known to increase tissue relaxation, stimulate local blood flow, and aid in scar tissue breakdown. Local blood flow can help reduce local swelling and chronic inflammation by delivering more nutrients to the infected area. According to some studies, it may even promote bone fracture healing.
Chiropractors, physical therapists, and personal trainers all use ultrasound therapy. While studies are still testing the effectiveness of these treatments, many people find them helpful in reducing pain and speeding the healing process. In one study, ultrasound therapy even encouraged the creation of new bone cells in mice.
While ultrasound therapy is not effective for all chronic pain, it may help reduce your pain if you have any of the following conditions:
- Myofascial pain
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Pain caused by scar tissue
- Phantom limb pain
- Sprains and strains
Now that you know what ultrasound is and how it can benefit you, we can answer the question at hand: How does ultrasound therapy work? To start, your therapist will apply gel to a transducer head or to the targeted surface area of your skin. This gel helps sound waves evenly reach your tissue, and it is hypoallergenic and anti-inflammatory. Your therapist will then continually move the transducer head in small circles over and around the selected area for five to ten minutes.
During therapy, the waves will vibrate the area. You might notice a soothing, tingling sensation or a slight warmth in the skin. However, it’s not unusual to feel nothing at all during this treatment. If the area is especially sensitive, you could feel a slight discomfort. Ultrasound therapy should not be painful though. The FDA deems it safe as long as it’s performed by a licensed professional.
Finding a treatment that decreases your pain is often a trial-and-error process. At Olson Chiropractic Center, we’re dedicated to finding an alternative solution that doesn’t just treat the symptoms of your ailment, but also addresses the root cause.