What is Ultrasound?


Ultrasound is a treatment modality used by physiotherapists in the management of musculoskeletal injuries. It stimulates the repair of soft tissue and promotes healing in the muscles, tendons, joint and ligaments. Ultrasound uses high frequency sound waves to raise the temperature of the deep tissue around the injured region. Special ultrasound gel is used to ensure maximal contact between the treatment head and the surface of the skin for maximal benefit.

How does it work?

Ultrasound therapy may be effective in the following ways:

  • Thermal effect:
    As ultrasound waves travel through the skin, they cause vibration that leads to the production of heat within the soft tissue. This increases the temperature of the tissue which may help improve the extensibility of the muscles, tendons, joint capsule and ligaments. Heat may also help reduce muscles spams and pain.
  • Reduction in Healing time:
    Ultrasound may accelerate the time it takes the inflamed tissue to heal by increasing blood flow to the area. This therapy may also stimulate an increased production of collagen which helps with healing, especially when scar tissue has formed following an injury.

Below is a quick YouTube video of therapeutic ultrasound being used to treat theiliotibial band (ITB)

What conditions does it help?

Ultrasound may help with:

  • Bursitis
  • Tendonitis
  • Muscle strains and tears
  • Frozen shoulder
  • Joint contracture or tightness

How is it Applied?

Ultrasound involves the application of a metal treatment head to the skin. Ultrasound gel is also applied to ensure maximal contact between the machine and the skin. The therapist will move the ultrasound head continuously over the area for approximately 5 minutes in circular motions. Your therapist will determine an optimal intensity and frequency of the ultrasound beam. A lower frequency provides a greater depth of penetration into the tissue, whereas a higher frequency is targets structures that are closer to the surface of the skin (superficial).

How does it feel? Does it hurt?

While receiving the treatment, you may feel nothing at all! Ultrasound is not painful and should not cause any soreness. You may experience a warming sensation or tingle around the area being treated. If you do experience any pain, make sure you let your therapist know.