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Therapeutic Ultrasound

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Ultrasound is the use of common household current converted to an ultrasound wave by the combination of a transformer, transducer head, and oscillating circuit. The crystal in the transducer head creates the piezoelectric effect of the ultrasound wave, which allows these waves to penetrate deep into the tissues.

Therapeutic ultrasound in physical therapy produces sound wave frequencies between 0.7 and 3.3 MHz depending on the level of penetration desired. Maximum energy absorption in soft tissue is 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). Therapeutic ultrasound has two types of benefit: Thermal effects and non thermal effects.

The thermal effects, namely heat, are due to the absorption of the sound waves. The therapeutic effects of heat include increasing the extensibility of collagen tissues; decreasing joint stiffness; reducing pain; relieving muscle spasms; reducing inflammation, edema, and aids in the post acute phase of healing; and increasing blood flow. The increased blood flow to the affected area provides proteins, nutrients, and oxygen for better healing.

Non thermal effects are from cavitation, resulting in 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.

Therapeutic ultrasound is usually recommended for muscle as well as joint pain.

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