When you see a physical therapist to help relieve your back pain, you might receive therapeutic ultrasound in addition to a customized exercise program. Most people know about ultrasound for various types of health evaluations, such as viewing unborn babies and diagnosing heart problems. However, you might not be familiar with ultrasound's healing effects.
Therapeutic vs. Diagnostic Ultrasound
Both therapeutic and diagnostic ultrasound involve the use of high-frequency sound waves that humans can't hear. A wand known as a transducer sends waves into the body. These waves are absorbed by fluids and light tissues and bounce off dense tissues, such as heart valves.
In diagnostic ultrasound, specialized equipment translates the bounced sound echoes into images that the ultrasound technician and doctors can view. Therapeutic ultrasound directs a higher-intensity beam of sound waves to soft tissues that can absorb these waves. The frequency is within the range as that used in diagnostic ultrasound, although diagnostic ultrasound uses a wider frequency range.
Frequency involves how low or high the tone is, whereas intensity is the strength of the signal.
What Therapeutic Ultrasound Accomplishes
The sound waves generate heat and stimulate the tissues through mechanical vibration. These effects increase circulation at the site of the injured tissue, which brings a larger amount of nutrients and oxygen to speed healing. The therapy reduces swelling, which in turn decreases pain. It also improves the flexibility of connective tissue so you can move more easily.
Pulsed therapy instead of continuous intermittent therapy is used in circumstances where heat should be avoided. If the patient has a high level of inflammation at the injured site, for instance, heat is counterproductive.
What to Expect During Ultrasound Therapy
The physical therapist or assistant applies gel to the transducer so it can glide smoothly on the skin. He or she moves this wand on the affected area for several minutes. You shouldn't feel any heat or discomfort.
You will probably only receive ultrasound therapy during the first few sessions. Afterward, when your body has progressed to a certain level of healing, your therapy will focus more fully on your exercise program.
There's no reason to feel nervous about ultrasound therapy; a high percentage of physical therapists use it for various purposes. A survey of orthopedic certified physical therapists found that nearly 84 percent apply ultrasound to reduce soft tissue inflammation and about 71 percent to boost the stretching ability of body tissue. For more information, contact a physical therapist like Hand & Orthopedic Rehabilitation Specialists.