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The Benefits of Therapeutic Ultrasound for Pain Management in Physical Therapy

Updated: Aug 8, 2023

Welcome to Part 1 of our series on Therapeutic Ultrasound in physical therapy. This type of ultrasound is different from the diagnostic ultrasound a doctor may use, for example, to look at the baby of a pregnant woman. Physical therapists use therapeutic ultrasound to impact deeper tissues and structures within the body. In this post, I go into detail about what therapeutic ultrasound is, why we use it, and common ultrasound therapy benefits for different diagnoses.

Is there benefit to ultrasound for physical therapy?

When most people think of ultrasound, they think of when a pregnant woman goes to the doctor for a check up and the doctor does an ultrasound to see an image of the baby inside her womb. Though this is a very beneficial type of ultrasound, we in physical therapy utilize ultrasound in a different capacity. We call it therapeutic ultrasound.

Like I mentioned before, during physical therapy, we utilize ultrasound and the sound waves it produces to impact tissues deeper within the body. We use it on muscles, tendons, ligaments, and around the joints of our shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, and ankles. These sound waves travel deep into those soft tissue structures and create heat, helping with the healing process if there has been an injury to those tissues. It can help to decrease pain and decrease swelling in those areas as well. Decreasing pain may allow for improved range of motion and decreased muscle spams.

Diagnoses That May Benefit from Therapeutic Ultrasound

Next let’s talk about the types of diagnoses we use therapeutic ultrasound for. In my practice, there is a wide variety of patient cases I will use this intervention for. For example, I utilize ultrasound in cases of bursitis or tendonitis, which are both inflammatory processes impacting those tendons or bursas (a fluid filled sac located over bony prominences). We can also use it on muscle tears and strains, like the rotator cuff muscles, hamstrings, etc.

Therapeutic ultrasound is also commonly used for diagnoses such as frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis. We can utilize ultrasound to reduce swelling and help with the healing process if someone has had a sprain, such as an ankle sprain. Lastly, it is something that can be beneficial in case of chronic pain. If a patient comes to you with chronic neck or lower back pain, ultrasound used on the muscles in that particular area of interest, can help to reduce muscle tension and pain that they are feeling, as well as improve their mobility for better completion of daily activities.

Therapeutic Ultrasound Wrap-Up

In this post, we’ve covered a little bit about what therapeutic ultrasound is, how it works, and diagnoses it can benefit. Stay tuned for part two of this series, where I demonstrate the completion of an ultrasound session, as well as walk you through what to expect during a therapeutic ultrasound physical therapy session.

Does therapeutic ultrasound sound like something you need? Call us today at 810-215-9222 to schedule an appointment. We also offer free 20-minute consultation calls for us to get to know each other and see if you may benefit from physical therapy.


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