Ultrasound is a therapeutic modality that has been used by physical therapists since the 1940s. Ultrasound is applied using a round-headed wand or probe that is put in direct contact with the patient’s skin. Ultrasound gel is used on all surfaces of the head in order to reduce friction and assist in the transmission of the ultrasonic waves.
Ultrasound can produce many effects other than just the potential heating effect. It has been shown to cause increases in tissue relaxation, local blood flow, and scar tissue breakdown. The effect of the increase in local blood flow can be used to help reduce local swelling and chronic inflammation. The intensity or power density of the ultrasound can be adjusted depending on the desired effect.
A typical ultrasound treatment will take from 3-5 minutes depending on the size of the area being treated. In cases where scar tissue breakdown is the goal, this treatment time can be much longer. During the treatment, the head of the ultrasound probe is kept in constant motion. If kept in constant motion, the patient should feel no discomfort at all.
Some conditions treated with ultrasound include tendonitis (or tendinitis if you prefer), non-acute joint swelling, muscle spasm, and even to break down the scar tissue. Contraindications of ultrasound include local malignancy, metal implants below the area being treated, local acute infection, vascular abnormalities, and directly on the abdomen of pregnant women.