Most people are familiar with the use of ultrasound as a diagnostic tool that allows doctors to get a better look at the growth, development, and movement of unborn babies, as well as the working of organs, such as the bladder, kidneys, and heart.
But it may surprise you to learn that the same sound waves that produce those images can also help heal damaged tissues.
Dr. Dinash Yanamadula, our board-certified pain management specialist at Princeton Pain and Spine Institute in Lawrenceville and Edgewater, New Jersey, uses the power of therapeutic ultrasound as part of our comprehensive physical therapy treatments for a wide range of orthopedic conditions.
Here, we take a closer look at this amazing technology and how it works to promote healing and reduce pain.
The science behind ultrasound therapy
Therapeutic ultrasound is noninvasive and painless, and it has no side effects other than decreased pain and inflammation and faster healing. The technology is simple: Dr. Yanamadula uses a small, handheld device that contains a small crystal inside.
An electrical charge causes the crystal to vibrate and generate a piezoelectric effect, which turns the mechanical energy into electric energy that can penetrate your skin and reach your injured tissues.
What does therapeutic ultrasound do?
The ultrasound waves that push through your outer skin layers and target your muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints produce a deep-heating effect in your soft tissues. You may feel a slightly warm sensation during your treatment, but most people don’t feel a thing.
Your injured tissues, on the other hand, experience a significant change. The ultrasound energy promotes healing in two ways: heat therapy and nonheat therapy.
If you have bursitis, tendonitis, arthritis, chronic muscle pain, or any similar condition, ultrasound therapy gently heats the injured tissue, which accomplishes several things:
- Makes your muscles and soft tissues more elastic
- Increases circulation in the area
- Decreases pain
- Accelerates the healing process
Dr. Yanamadula may recommend therapeutic ultrasound just prior to physical therapy exercises that focus on your range of motion to make your tissues more limber and pliable.
Also known as cavitation, ultrasound therapy also offers benefits that have nothing to do with the heat it generates. The sound waves trigger tiny gas bubbles to form around your injured tissues, which causes them to rapidly contract and expand (the process of cavitation).
Cavitation may speed up your cells’ ability to renew, which, in turn, speeds up healing.
Is therapeutic ultrasound right for me?
Nearly all types of soft-tissue injuries can benefit from therapeutic ultrasound. At Princeton Pain & Spine Institute, we often employ ultrasound therapy to treat muscle strains, ligament sprains, tight joints, tendonitis, bursitis, and frozen shoulder.
Ultrasound therapy might not be right for you if you have an open wound, numbness or decreased sensation, implanted electrical devices like a pacemaker, metal joint replacements, or an acute infection.
If you’re experiencing pain in your neck, back, or joints, schedule a consultation with Dr. Yanamadula to find out if therapeutic ultrasound can ease your discomfort and help you heal. Contact us online or by phone today.