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Ultrasound Treatment

Today’s therapeutic ultrasound was developed consequent to the discoveries by Pierre and Paul Jacques Curie of the piezoelectric effect in the 1880s and by Langevin of the reverse piezoelectric effect in 1910. By 1938, ultrasound was being delivered therapeutically for lumbosciatica. Today ultrasound is by far the most widely used physical agent in physical medicine and rehabilitation. Ultrasound is capable of thermal effects, mechanical effects and phonophoresis.

How Ultrasound works:

As the ultrasonic beam passes through soft tissues, molecules are caused to vibrate under the alternating cycles of high and low pressure (compression and rarefaction):

  • The high the intensity of the ultrasonic beam and the more continuous the waves, the greater the molecular vibration.
  • The more intense the vibration, the more vigorous the resulting microfriction between the vibrating molecules.
  • As more microfriction occurs, more heat is generated in the tissue.
  • Eventually tissue temperature increases and enhances cell metabolism which is believed to enhance soft tissue healing.

Effectiveness of Ultrasound:

  • Elevated tissue temperature (especially tissue high in protein)
  • Increases local tissue metabolism
  • Increases blood flow
  • Increases membrane permeability
  • Increases enzyme activity
  • Increased collagen and tissue extensibility
  • Increases pain threshold (decreases pain)
  • Decreases tissue viscosity
  • Decreases muscle hypertonicity
  • Changes in Nerve Conduction Velocity
  • Selectively heats the peripheral nerves
  • May alter or block nerve impulse conduction
  • Increased membrane permeability
  • Accelerates ion diffusion: Increased intracellular calcium
  • Increases the rate of protein synthesis by fibroblasts
  • Increases macrophage responsiveness
  • Increases blood flow
  • Increases vascular permeability
  • Decreases edema

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