Soft tissue pain is annoying to say the least. Thermal ultrasound used as an adjunct for a therapeutic massage session enhances the treatment outcome and extends its lasting effects. It can be used for many soft tissue conditions such as myofascial pain, muscle spasm, muscle sprain or muscle strain scar tissue, deep muscle adhesion, fascial restrictions, and trigger points.
What is Ultrasound?
Sound is a vibration that typically propagates as a wave of pressure. Each wave can be big or small. Big sound waves have high amplitude or intensity and we hear them as louder sounds. Small sound waves have low amplitude or intensity, and we hear them as lower sounds.
Besides amplitude, another characteristic about sound waves is their pitch - also called frequency. The frequency is the number of waves produced in one second, for example, a soprano singer produces sound waves with a higher pitch then a bass singer because she can produce waves with a much higher frequency.
Human ears can only detect sound waves in frequencies between 20 (Hertz) Hz and 20 (kilohertz) kHz. Sound waves below 20 Hz are known as infrasound. Sound waves above 20 kHz are known as ultrasound. They are not audible by us, human beings, but they’re still there.
As you probably know, ultrasound technology has been a popular safe and reliable diagnostic tool. At low frequencies, medical ultrasound transducers can detect abnormal growths and tumors or check on the well-being of a child before birth.
But what you might not know is that, also at low frequencies (between 1 MHz and 3 MHz),
ultrasound has been used for decades as an adjunct for physical therapy bodywork in order to treat a variety of painful myoskeletal conditions. Ultrasound is known to help stimulate the healing process by increasing blood flow and decreasing pain and inflammation. This application of ultrasound technology is known as Therapeutic Ultrasound.
Thermal Ultrasound Therapy and Mechanic Ultrasound Therapy
There are two main types of therapeutic ultrasound: thermal and mechanical. I offer thermal therapeutic ultrasound in my studio.
Both types use sound waves generated through a transducer head (which resembles a microphone) to reach deep into soft tissues. The difference between the two types of therapeutic ultrasound is the rate at which the sound waves penetrate the tissues.
The thermal ultrasound therapy uses a more continuous transmission of sound waves. The sound waves cause microscopic vibrations in the deep tissue molecules, increasing heat and friction. The warming effect encourages healing in the soft tissues by increasing the metabolism at the level of the tissue cells.
The type of ultrasound therapy applied depends on each condition. Many soft tissue issues such as myofascial pain, muscle spasm, muscle sprain or muscle strain scar tissue, deep muscle adhesion, fascial restrictions, and trigger points respond better with the application of thermal ultrasound therapy.
Some conditions such as plantar fasciitis, sciatica, tendinitis, frozen shoulder, whiplash, and nerve impingement will also respond well with thermal ultrasound therapy. If the pain is caused by swelling, or conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome, better results will be achieved with a mechanical ultrasound therapy.
How is it performed?
Thermal ultrasound Therapy can be applied before or during a therapeutic massage session.
Gel will be applied over the area to be treated, this allows the sound waves to work evenly through the skin. During the treatment, the transducer head will be continually moved over and around the selected area.
The treatment will normally take anywhere around 5 and 15 minutes.
Thermal Ultrasound Therapy is not painful. Some people feel a mild pulsing during the treatment and some may feel a slight warmth in the skin. Most people, won't feel anything at all.
And the counter-indications?
Ultrasound therapy is deemed safe by the FDA provided it's performed by a trained therapist, however it's counter-indicated for certain conditions such as pregnant women or potentially pregnant women, hemophilia (bleeding disorder), tissues or bones that have active infection (e.g. opens sores), cancerous or pre-cancerous cells, de-sensitized areas of the skin (diabetic neuropathy), untreated osteomyelitis (bone infection), deep vein thrombosis and cardiac disease.