UltrasoundOne of the most widely used therapeutic modalities among physiotherapists is ultrasound. This type of ultrasound uses mechanical sound waves to vibrate the tissues. It is different from a diagnostic ultrasound in that it does not produce an image, but rather produces a vibration that is transmitted to the tissues. Audible sound waves operate at a frequency of 20 Hz to 20KHz, while ultrasound sound waves have a vibrational frequency of 1-3 MHz.

Effects of Ultrasound.

Thermal Effects of Ultrasound

Primarily the ultrasound acts as a heating agent, where the vibration creates energy that is turned into heat. By applying heat to the affected tissue, blood flow, elasticity and metabolic processes are increased. For example, a stiff joint may benefit from the thermal effects of ultrasound by allowing more blood flow to reach the area and increasing its flexibility or range of motion.

Non-Thermal Effects of Ultrasound

When ultrasound is used on the pulsed setting it prevents the heating effect and instead the vibration from the mechanical sound wave acts like a massage, especially useful for scar tight tissue.

When Not to Use Ultrasound (Contraindications)

Ultrasound should not be applied to the following: localized cancer or malignancy, metal implants (such as total hip or knee replacements), acute infections, pregnancy, implanted pacemakers for the heart, or over blood clots.

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