Portable Treatment Ultrasound also referred to as ultrasound therapy, is a treatment modality most commonly used by physical, occupational and other experienced therapists to promote tissue healing and to treat pain. Not to be confused with diagnostic ultrasound, which is when ultrasound is used to see inside of the body, such as in pregnancy, therapeutic ultrasound is often utilized to treat chronic pain conditions and to speed the process of healing and repair through the use of sound waves generated through a transducer head. These special devices more efficiently penetrate soft tissues and can be a wonderful adjunct to many healing modalities.
Generally, Portable Treatment Ultrasound is any ultrasonic procedure that utilizes ultrasound for therapeutic applications. These procedures can include lithotripsy, cancer therapy, ultrasound hemostasis, HIFU, transdermal ultrasound drug delivery, targeted ultrasound drug delivery and ultrasound assisted thrombolysis. Ultrasound therapies include unfocused ultrasound and focused ultrasound (FUS), with the difference being the rate at which the sound waves penetrate the tissues. These high-frequency sound waves that measure between 800,000 Hz and 2,000,000 Hz stimulate the tissues beneath the skin’s surface via an applicator or transducer that stays in constantly moving direct contact with the patient’s skin.
Portable Treatment Ultrasound offers two types of effects, thermal and non-thermal/mechanical. Thermal effects are characterized by the various absorption of the sound waves, while non-thermal and mechanical effects come from acoustic streaming, microstreaming and cavitation. Using a more continuous transmission of sound waves, thermal ultrasound increases heat and friction in relation to the microscopic vibrations it makes in the deep tissue molecules. This warming effect enhances healing and repair in the soft tissues through the increase of metabolism at the cellular level. Non-thermal and mechanical ultrasound therapy applies pulses of sound waves to penetrate the soft tissues, leading to the expansion and contraction of tiny gas bubbles inherent in these tissues. While mechanical, non-thermal ultrasound will still have a minor warming effect, this therapy also aids in decreasing the inflammatory response through its reduction of pain and swelling.
What are the Benefits of Therapeutic Ultrasound?
While individual results will vary, there are three main benefits to therapeutic ultrasound. The first is a quicker healing process as a direct correlation of increased blood flow to the affected area. The second is the reduction of swelling and edema, resulting in decreased pain. The third is the softening and gentle massage of muscles, ligaments and tendons in the affected area without employing strain or exertion. Studies have shown that therapeutic ultrasound is a catalyst in enhancing the metabolic activities of cells, thus helping in tissue repair, especially with soft tissue injuries.
The type of ultrasound therapy that is appropriate for each individual is dependent upon conditions presented. For instance, myofascial pain or unhealed muscle strains or sprains will most likely respond favorably to thermal ultrasound therapies, while scar tissue or edema may be better addressed with mechanical/non-thermal ultrasound therapies. The deep heating effects of thermal therapeutic ultrasound aids in decreasing pain, while it also helps to increase the elasticity of tight muscles, tendons and ligaments, improving extensibility and range of motion.
Cavitation refers to the process of microscopic gas bubbles in the tissues expanding and contracting quickly, a process that non-thermal therapeutic ultrasound causes with its introduction of energy into the body. Experts theorize that cavitation helps speed up cellular processes leading to faster healing of the injured tissues.
Many health conditions may respond quite well to therapeutic ultrasound. These include muscle strains and tears, ligament sprains and injuries, tendonitis, bursitis, frozen shoulder, myofascial pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, phantom limb pain, scar tissue pain, joint contractures or tightness, scar adhesions, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, plantar fasciitis, facet irritation, impingement syndrome, joint inflammation, metatarsalgia and just about any soft tissue and/or slow-healing injuries.