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Home > Health & Wellness > Why Physios use Ultrasound

Why Physios use Ultrasound


When most people hear the word “Ultrasound” they are likely to think babies or perhaps kidneys? This is exploratory or investigative ultrasound which operates on different pulse widths and frequencies to produce a picture on the screen. Physio´s use therapeutic ultrasound at frequencies of 0.8 to 3.5 Mhz.

Ultrasound has been around as a therapeutic option in the rehabilitation of soft tissue injuries since the 1940´s and is so successful that it remains one of the top choices in electrotherapy treatments.


Ultrasound waves are generated by the piezoelectric effect, vibrating quartz crystals in the transducer head which looks like a flat metal disc for larger surface areas or wand shape for smaller areas. The sound waves pass through the skin (with the help of a gel to reduce any resistance) causing a vibration at cellular level. This micro vibration cellular massage can bring about beneficial changes to healing tissues.



  1. The cells become excited with the vibration and their metabolic rates are increased thus accelerating the healing process.
  2. The micro vibration can help release deep tissue tension and scaring.
  3. The same vibration produces a heating effect within the tissues which helps to increase the blood supply to the area. Increased oxygenation accelerates the healing process and the increased blood flow helps to rid the area of damaged cells and flush away any swelling.
  4. There are cases when the heating effect is not required such as when the tissues are inflamed or there is a chance of infection. In these cases the ultrasound can be pulsed such that the bonuses of microcellular vibration are still available without overheating already inflamed tissues.
  5. Ultrasound can also be used to induce medication such as cortisone through the skin barrier which is known as phonophoresis and can avoid the need for an infiltration or injection.

Ultrasound treatment is pain free. The treatment probe (or transducer head) is constantly in motion to avoid any unwanted sensation. Ultrasound passes easily through tissues with a high liquid content with no sensory discomfort. There are however many occasions when ultrasound should not be used and should always be in the hands of a trained professional. If you would like a list of these contraindications please do mail me at tlephysio@hotmail.com.

Unlike a yacht´s echo sounder or fish finder where the sound wave continues through the water until it reaches a medium too dense to penetrate, therapeutic ultrasound is programmed by the practitioner to rebound at the designated depth of the injured tissue to bring about the best result.

I once had a patient with a sprained thumb who sent me a wonderful e mail assuring me that he was continuing his treatment by diving under the yacht to the echo´s transducer skin fitting where he held his thumb for as long as he could hold his breath!

A lovely idea but I can´t recommend it!