Most people think of ultrasound as a preoperative technology to take a look at your internal organs or as a way to take a look at a growing fetus. Ultrasound machines are used for therapeutic pain relief. They are a staple tool used in physical therapy and occupational therapy and are available for home use. It’s a safe tool that can speed recovery. Several conditions can be treated effectively by ultrasound machines.
Ultrasound is a relatively simple technology. There’s a crystal in the device, and when you electrify it, sound waves come out the tip. These sound waves pass through your body and heat things up. As you might guess, the main reason to use this technology is to apply directed heat to various parts of your body.
Why wouldn’t you just use a heat pack since it’s cheaper? Because ultrasound provides deep heat — much deeper than a hot towel or heating pad. The higher intensity head can penetrate fleshy parts of the body or places where the pain is deeper.
Musculoskeletal pain — like muscle spasms — is the most typical condition treated by ultrasound machines. Treatment can extend the life of the tissue and boost its range of motion. Nerve damage or inflammation can also be treated since heated tissues will promote blood flow and healing.
Bursitis, an inflammation of the sac between the bone and the tendon being filled with fluid, is another candidate for treatment with ultrasound. Herniated discs can also be treated, although there are special precautions regarding scanning directly over the spinal cord among patients with back problems or history of back surgery. Tendinitis can also be treated by heat.
Sprains — laceration and painful wrenching of joint ligaments — can be treated using ultrasound therapy. Patients with frozen shoulder or adhesive capsulitis can benefit as the treatment enhances range of motion. Shoulder pain and stiffness will therefore improve.
Arthritis or joint inflammation can be treated effectively through thermotherapy. The specific conditions that can improve include osteoarthritis, gout, ankylosing spondylitis, rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and Reiter’s syndrome. Rotator cuff injury can also show improvement.
The generalized pain associated with fibromyalgia can be treated using ultrasound machines. TMJ disorder, myofascial pain syndrome, and systemic lupus erythematosus can also benefit from ultrasound therapy. Trigger points where muscle spasms are localized can be alleviated by heat. Phantom limb pain, carpal tunnel syndrome and complex regional pain syndrome are other cases that should be treated using ultrasound interventions.
While ultrasound machines are generally considered safe, there are more risks involved during the treatment function, compared to the diagnostic function, since heat is directly applied on the affected areas. This type therapy is not recommended in areas near tumors and areas of bone overgrowth like Paget’s disease, over a pregnant woman’s abdomen, over the eyes, heart, reproductive parts and bony areas and over areas of infections or where there are oozing wounds.
The transducer should not be placed directly over children’s growing bones, near pacemakers of the heart and other implanted devices inside the body, near an exposed spinal cord among patients with a laminectomy, near metallic implants like joint replacements unless allowed by the physician. Patients with impaired sensation due to diabetic neuropathy are also contraindicated.
You should feel no pain throughout the procedure. Cease treatment if you feel or notice anything unusual. Side effects are also not common during and after the procedure. Report immediately to your doctor any abnormalities that may arise after receiving treatment. Do not hesitate to ask your doctors for tips and answers for all your concerns for optimum and immediate recovery.
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