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Therapeutic ultrasound is in reference to any type of procedure that uses ultrasound for therapeutic benefit. This includes HIFU, lithotripsy, targeted ultrasound drug delivery, trans-dermal ultrasound drug delivery, ultrasound hemostasis, and ultrasound assisted thrombolysis.
Specifically this Therapeutic Ultrasound is a therapeutic treatment using high frequency sound waves that penetrate deep into the tissues, creating a heat response. This procedure increases blood flow, relaxes muscle spasms, massages damaged tissues, and speeds the healing process.
Ultrasound is applied using a round-headed wand or probe that is in direct contact with the patient’s skin. Gel is used on all surfaces of the head to reduce friction and assist transmission of the ultrasonic waves. Therapeutic ultrasound in physical therapy is alternating compression and rarefaction of sound waves with a frequency of >20,000 cycles/second. Therapeutic ultrasound frequency used is 0.7 to 3.3 MHz. Maximum energy absorption in soft tissue occurs from 2 to 5 cm. Intensity decreases as the waves penetrate deeper. They are absorbed primarily by connective tissue: ligaments, tendons, and fascia (and also by scar tissue).
Benefits of Ultrasound
There are three primary benefits to ultrasound. The first is the speeding up of the healing process from the increase in blood flow in the treated area. The second is the decrease in pain from the reduction of swelling and edema. The third is the gentle massage of muscles tendons and/ or ligaments in the treated area because no strain is added and any scar tissue is softened. These three benefits are achieved by two main effects of therapeutic ultrasound.The two types of effects are: thermal and non thermal effects. Thermal effects are due to the absorption of the sound waves. Non thermal effects are from cavitation, microstreaming and acoustic streaming. Cavitational effects result from the vibration of the tissue causing microscopic air bubbles to form, which transmit the vibrations in a way that directly stimulates cell membranes. This physical stimulation appears to enhance the cell-repair effects of the inflammatory response. Effectiveness of therapeutic ultrasound for pain, musculoskeletal injuries, and soft tissue lesions remains questionable.