Therapeutic ultrasound is used to relieve muscle tension, increase joint and tissue mobility and promote healing in tendons, ligaments, and muscles. The sound waves create a deep heat in the soft tissue. This heat improves circulation, decreases pain, and inflammation.
The treatment is typically performed as a physical therapy modality. The physical therapist (PT) provides therapeutic ultrasound in direct contact with the skin near the affected area using an ultrasound gel or cream to aid the transfer of energy. The ultrasound device is moved in small circular motions. When the PT applies topical medication with the ultrasound gel it’s referred to as phonophoresis. The waves are thought to help penetration of anti- inflammatory medication.
Normally the hands and feet are too uneven for direct treatment using ultrasound. If this is the case, the hands or feet are submerged in water and the ultrasound head is held about one cm away from the body during treatment.
If ultrasound treatment is used on open sores or wounds, the use of direct contact with gel or cream could pose a risk of infection. If this is the case, a plastic barrier, or rubber glove, needs to be applied to the ultrasound head along with proper sterilization of equipment. At most, ultrasound might feel like a soft tingling or a warming sensation, if any pain occurs it is imperative the patient notify the therapist right away.