At one point, our bodies experience pain from physical injuries, the effects of old age, or an underlying condition. As a result, some people turn to medication for short-term pain relief, while others use therapy as a long-term solution.
While there’s no one way to completely get rid of the pain, medical interventions can make the pain more manageable. One such invention is the ultrasound therapy device.
Not only does it help in acute pain management, but it also promotes quick tissue healing.
Read on to discover what it is, how it works, and its significant role in pain management.
What is Ultrasound Therapy Device?
Ultrasound therapy is different from diagnostic ultrasound used to observe internal organs or the fetus during pregnancy.
In therapeutic ultrasound, an occupational therapist uses innovative technology to treat pain. The aim is to promote tissue healing and pain relief by deep heating the body’s soft tissues. This includes the tendons, muscles, ligaments, and joints.
While this treatment is not a solution for all chronic or acute pain, it can be effective when the cause of your pain is:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Muscle strains and tears
- Scarred tissue
- Limb pain
Ultrasound therapy is an effective way of treating different conditions. It is, thus, crucial to understand what it fully entails before settling on what’s best for you.
Types of Ultrasound Therapy
There are two types of ultrasound therapy. Both are generated from a common source – the transducer head but produce different effects. The type of treatment depends on the extent of your condition. They include:
Thermal Ultrasound Therapy
Thermal ultrasound or deep heating utilizes the continuous transmission of sound waves from the head to create deep microscopic tissue vibrations. During a thermal ultrasound, the heat produced from friction warms up the soft tissues, which increases circulation to the affected muscles. As a result, the healing process is much faster, and the pain is subdued. The deep heat also stretches your muscles and tendons to prevent continuous muscle spasms.
For example, if you have a frozen shoulder and are in pain, an ultrasound can help increase the extensibility of the tissues around the shoulder. This way, the shoulders can be flexible before performing motion exercises.
Mechanical Ultrasound Therapy
In this therapy, sound waves from the ultrasound device enter the tissues and release energy. But, more importantly, this energy creates a warming effect and causes the contraction and expansion of tiny gas bubbles around the soft tissues.
Cavitation, as the process is commonly referred helps speed up the body’s cellular process. In turn, it reduces pain or swelling around the muscles. There are two types of cavitation, and they both have different outcomes. They are:
Stable cavitation occurs within the recommended ultrasound dose. Here, once the gas bubble form, it takes about 1000 cycles to hit the maximum size. Again, this is the best outcome after your therapist applies ultrasound because you’ll heal faster.
This condition occurs when a therapist doesn’t administer the treatment properly. As a result, the bubbles form at a lower pressure than average and collapse faster than usual. When unstable cavitation occurs during ultrasound therapy, your tissues may never recover fully.
How Does Therapeutic Ultrasound Work?
A therapist performs ultrasound therapy using a transducer or wand. Inside the ultrasound therapy device, there’s a small crystal charged to release sound waves at a frequency of 800,000Hz – 2,000,000Hz to stimulate the tissue beneath the skin.
However, before the treatment begins, the physician inspects your body for active wounds, burns, or infections. If the soft tissues are seriously inflamed, the therapist may administer topical medication to reduce the swelling. A process referred to as phonophoresis.
If your skin looks clear, they’ll apply a gel on the affected body part or the transducer head to expel air between your skin and the machine head. Once every item checks off, the doctor starts moving the ultrasound head slowly in a circular motion around your body.
Since the machine has different settings, depending on your pain, the therapist may change settings as they perform the ultrasound therapy to control the depth of the ultrasound waves entering your body.
Will you feel anything during the treatment? Well, people react differently to the sensation from the transducer head. But, the general feeling is that of a mild pushing around the skin accompanied by slight warmth.
However, if the device stays at one point on the skin for too long or goes over a sensitive area, you may experience minor pain. At this point, it is best to notify your therapist to take the subsequent precautionary measures.
Lastly, on the day of therapy, wear comfortable clothes that are easy to take off. This is because you may need to wear a gown to easier analyze the affected area.
Ultrasound Therapy for Acute Pain Management
While therapeutic ultrasound is the best physical therapy for back pains, neck pains, and torn meniscus, studies show it can be an actuate pain management for more severe conditions as well. Patients with illnesses that cause long-term pain to their bodies could benefit from the effect of focused ultrasound therapy.
Even though these clinical trials remain unpublished, they’re in the final stages of approval. They include:
Focused Ultrasound Therapy for Cancer Pain
This involves using an early stage, therapeutic, non-invasive technology to improve the quality of life of cancer patients. The technology targets the affected tissues deep within the body without compromising the normal tissues.
Here, the beams from the ultrasound device converge to produce a focused ultrasound. In turn, this causes thermal destruction of the nerves connecting the cancerous region.
Focused ultrasound reduces a patient’s pain without surgery or using too much money on other invasive methods. Also, it carries a lesser risk of complications like nausea, respiratory problems, and addiction associated with pain meds.
Focused Ultrasound for Neuropathy
Patients suffering from brain disorders can experience neuropathic pain. The standard treatment is medication or invasive surgery involving deep brain stimulation. Both of which could have later complications.
Ultrasound therapy is a straightforward solution for neuropathic pain without negative consequences. What’s more, you can repeat it as many times as possible until you’re pain-free.
The treatment process is similar to cancer patients. But, only the focused ultrasound produces precise ablations to reduce neuropathic pain. In short, the beams target sensory components in the brain that could be a source of pain.
The treatment targets the central thalamus because it can undergo neuromodulation. This is a process that aims to reduce the brain’s stimuli and the effect of neuropathic pain.
Is Ultrasound Safe?
Ultrasound therapy is a treatment approved by the Food and Drugs Association of America (FDA). Provided a licensed therapist performs the treatment and keeps the transducer moving at all times, you shouldn’t have any problem.
But if the ultrasound head stays at one point in your body for too long, it can burn the tissues underneath your skin, which you may not feel until later. On top of these reservations, ultrasound therapy should never occur:
- Over open wounds
- Around the spine, breasts, eyes, or sexual organs
- Over cancerous areas of metastatic lesions
- On pregnant or menstruating women with back pains
- Over areas with plastic or metallic implants, e.g., Lumbar fusion on the legs
- On parts with acute infection
- Over parts with decreased skin sensation
- Over fractured bones
- Near stimulation devices implanted, e.g., pacemaker
Because cavitation may sometimes cause minor discomfort, a doctor may administer anesthesia or sedative to contain the pain.
Benefits of Ultrasound Therapy
There are different opinions about therapeutic ultrasound as an acute pain management treatment. Some say the therapy has little to no significant impact on the rehabilitation process, while others seem to differ.
Realistically, ultrasound therapy is better than alternative physiotherapy options like electric stimulation, infrared therapy, or ice. This is because:
- The treatment is painless and straightforward (typically takes 10-20 min at max)
- There’s no need for anesthesia or sedatives unless, in particular cases
- When done right, therapeutic ultrasound doesn’t have side effects
- Ultrasound is non-invasive and hence safer than alternative methods
Ultrasound has various benefits. Consider exploring the options that best suit your condition.
The Penultimate for Acute Pain Management
Ultrasound physical therapy is the best option for patients who struggle with musculoskeletal pain even after taking meds. While there’s no guarantee that it works on everyone or it will work on you, the treatment is worth the risk.
Ask your physical therapist about ultrasound therapy and the potential benefits or drawbacks of using the treatment modality. If you decide to go ahead with it, make sure the operating therapist has a license to perform the treatment.For the best acute pain management through ultrasound therapy, contact us today to get started.