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How do ultrasounds work?

Ultrasound treatment involves the use of high-frequency sound waves to transfer heat into particular areas in the body. The ultrasound machine has a base unit that generates an electrical signal and a hand-held transducer. Ultrasound is used by physical therapists and occupational therapists for many different painful conditions. It is mostly used with people who have acute injuries or short-term pain. The deep heating increases blood flow with the goal of decreasing pain and inflammation. It can also be used to help muscles and tendons that are tight by increasing how much they are able to stretch.

What to expect

Your physical or occupational therapist will apply conductive gel to the treatment area. They will then move the ultrasound head back and forth to the treatment area. Depending on the condition, the therapist may adjust how much the waves will reach in the body. The treatment commonly lasts 5 to 10 minutes and is not performed more than once a day. During the treatment, there is no specific sensation noted within the tissue, only the feeling of the gel and the ultrasound head moving over the skin. Opinions vary on the effectiveness with chronic pain conditions.

Potential Risks

This treatment is considered to be safe when used therapeutically within rehabilitation. There are very rare side effects to its use in rehabilitation such as damage to tissues if used without adequate training.


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