Ultrasound Therapy: Purpose, Benefits, Side Effects, Cost, Time to Work

Ms. Thula Chelvan
Published at: 22/4/2024

Ultrasound Therapy: Purpose, Benefits, Side Effects, Cost, Time to Work

Key Takeaways

  • Ultrasound therapy uses sound waves to promote healing and reduce pain.

  • It is particularly effective for soft tissue injuries and can help decrease inflammation.

  • The benefits of ultrasound therapy include enhanced tissue repair, increased blood flow, and breakdown of scar tissue.

  • Side effects are minimal, but it's important to be aware of contraindications.

  • Costs can vary, but ultrasound therapy is often a cost-effective treatment option.

  • Improvements can be felt immediately, but the full benefits typically accrue over time.

What Is The Purpose of Ultrasound Therapy?

Ultrasound therapy targets the fibers of your muscles and tendons, promoting healing from within. It uses sound waves emitted at a high frequency that, when applied to the skin, penetrate deep into the tissues. The therapist will put a conductive gel on your skin and then move a handheld probe across the area that's causing you problems. The therapy usually doesn't hurt. You might feel a slight warming sensation as the sound waves go into the tissues. Your therapist will make sure you're comfortable during the whole appointment and will answer any questions you have. This process can stimulate cells in a way that encourages repair and can help relieve pain. 

Here are the main ways ultrasound therapy is used: 

Healing Soft Tissue Injuries

Ultrasound therapy remedies soft tissue injuries such as sprained ankles or strained shoulders which can be quite stubborn by reducing swelling and encouraging the tissues to heal more effectively.

Lessening Inflammation and Pain

Inflammation is the body's way of telling us that something is wrong. While it's a crucial part of the healing process, excessive inflammation can lead to pain and slow down recovery. Ultrasound therapy can help to reduce this inflammation, which in turn lessens pain.

Encouraging Relaxation of Tissues

Ultrasound Therapy: Purpose, Benefits, Side Effects, Cost, Time to Work

Like a tense knot that can be relieved through a professional massage, ultrasound therapy can help to relax tissues that have become tense due to injury or chronic conditions. This relaxation can enhance flexibility and range of motion, making movement more comfortable for you. It's about tapping into your body's ability to move smoothly and without pain.

Benefits of Ultrasound Therapy

Ultrasound therapy is a multipurpose treatment that provides a range of benefits for different aspects of healing and pain management. Here are the major benefits of ultrasound therapy:

Boosting Tissue Repair

The main purpose of ultrasound therapy is to hasten the body's natural healing process. The sound waves stimulate an increase in blood flow and oxygen to the injured area, which can help to mend damaged tissues more quickly.

Boosting Circulation

Proper circulation is key to healing as it brings nutrients and oxygen to the cells while removing waste products. Ultrasound therapy helps to dilate blood vessels in the targeted area, improving circulation.

Scar Tissue Reduction

When you have an injury or surgery, your body can produce scar tissue. This is a sign that your body is healing, but it sometimes causes stiffness and discomfort. Ultrasound therapy can help reduce this scar tissue by promoting a process called mechanochemical modulation, which can:

  • Increase collagen fiber alignment: Collagen is the main protein component of scar tissue. Ultrasound therapy can help improve the organization of collagen fibers, making them more flexible and aligned in a way that promotes better mobility.

  • Enhance blood flow: As mentioned earlier, ultrasound therapy can improve circulation in the area. This increased blood flow can deliver enzymes that help break down excess scar tissue, promoting a more natural healing process.

  • Reduce inflammation: Ultrasound therapy can also have mild anti-inflammatory effects, which can further contribute to a more comfortable healing experience and potentially reduce scar tissue formation.

Short-Term Versus Long-Term Advantages

While Ultrasound therapy can offer short-term advantages, such as alleviating pain and decreasing muscle tension; the long-term advantages, such as enhanced tissue recovery and increased flexibility, typically manifest gradually and with regular therapy.

Potential Side Effects of Ultrasound Therapy?

Ultrasound therapy is typically well-received by patients and generally considered safe and effective, with few reporting side effects. It's essential, to have a trained professional perform the therapy to avoid any possible complications. 

  • Always tell your therapist about any pre-existing conditions or concerns you may have.

  • Ultrasound should not be used over areas with metal implants because it can cause the metal to heat up.

  • Except under special circumstances as advised by the healthcare professional, pregnant women should avoid ultrasound therapy.

Slight Discomfort

Although ultrasound therapy is typically considered a gentle treatment, some people may feel a bit of discomfort during or after the treatment. This discomfort is usually mild and doesn't last long, similar to how you might feel after a good workout. The duration of this discomfort typically resolves within a few hours, but it can occasionally persist for up to 24 to 48 hours. It's your body's way of reacting to the therapy, and it often means that the healing process has begun.

When to Avoid Ultrasound Therapy

While ultrasound therapy can be beneficial, it's not recommended for individuals with pacemakers, active infections, or cancerous lesions. Additionally, certain conditions like deep vein thrombosis or vascular abnormalities may also make ultrasound therapy unsuitable. Always check with our healthcare professionals to determine if ultrasound therapy is right for you.

Cost of Ultrasound Therapy

The price of Ultrasound therapy ranges from $200 to $2000 or even more. It's a relief to know that ultrasound therapy is generally less expensive than invasive procedures. Since the treatment is carried out over multiple sessions, the cost is distributed over a period of time, making it more financially manageable.

Insurance Coverage and Out-of-Pocket Expenses

How much you'll have to pay for ultrasound therapy depends greatly on whether your insurance covers it. Always check with your insurance provider to understand what your coverage includes. Some plans may cover the therapy fully or partially if it's considered medically necessary, while others may not cover it at all.

  • Ensure to check your insurance benefits and coverage limits before you begin the treatment.

  • For a more precise cost estimate, consult your healthcare provider about the anticipated number of sessions.

  • If you're paying out-of-pocket, you might want to think about asking about payment plans or sliding scale fees.

Investing in your health with treatments like ultrasound therapy could potentially save you money in the future by avoiding more severe complications while reducing the need for more costly interventions.

How Long Does It Take for Ultrasound Therapy to Work?

Some people may experience relief right after the first session, while others may see gradual improvements over a series of treatments.

The type of ailment being treated also factors into how long it takes for the therapy to work. Acute injuries such as muscle strains, ligament sprains, and tendonitis, may show improvements faster than chronic conditions like plantar fasciitis, tendonitis (e.g., Achilles tendonitis), and chronic bursitis (e.g., shoulder bursitis), which usually need a longer treatment plan to see the intended outcome.

When Will You Start to See Results?

Most treatment plans involve sessions ranging from 2-3 times a week for 3-5 weeks. This schedule allows for maximum therapeutic effect and gives the body enough time to start healing.

In the end, how quickly and effectively ultrasound therapy works for you will largely depend on your dedication to the treatment plan and adherence to your therapist's advice.

MSK Doctors for Your Ultrasound Therapy

At MSK Doctors, we understand the challenges posed by musculoskeletal conditions.  Ultrasound therapy is a valuable tool that can promote the body's natural healing processes, alleviate pain, and accelerate the recovery of soft tissue injuries.  This non-invasive treatment utilizes high-frequency sound waves to penetrate deep into tissues, increasing blood flow and reducing inflammation.  The application of ultrasound therapy can be particularly beneficial for a variety of musculoskeletal issues, including:

  • Tendonitis: This condition involves the inflammation of a tendon, the fibrous tissue that connects muscle to bone. Ultrasound therapy can help reduce inflammation and promote healing in tendons affected by tendonitis.

  • Ligament Sprains: Sprains occur when ligaments, the connective tissues that stabilize joints, are stretched or torn. Ultrasound therapy can promote healing in sprained ligaments by reducing inflammation and encouraging blood flow to the injured area.

  • Muscle Strains: Muscle strains are tears or pulls in muscle fibers. Ultrasound therapy can help to reduce muscle spasms, alleviate pain, and promote tissue repair in strained muscles.

  • Bursitis: Bursae are fluid-filled sacs that cushion joints. Bursitis is the inflammation of a bursa. Ultrasound therapy can help to reduce inflammation and pain associated with bursitis.

Finding the Right MSK Experts at MSK Doctors

MSK Doctors is dedicated to connecting you with the best possible care for your musculoskeletal health needs.  While we may not directly offer ultrasound therapy ourselves, we boast a comprehensive network of highly-qualified musculoskeletal experts.  Our directory features verified patient reviews, allowing you to easily find a specialist with the experience and expertise to develop a personalized treatment plan for your specific condition.  Whether you're dealing with a recent injury or a chronic musculoskeletal issue, MSK Doctors can help you navigate your path to recovery.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can Everyone Use Ultrasound Therapy Safely?

Ultrasound therapy is usually safe, but it's not recommended in some situations. For instance, you shouldn't use it on areas with active infections or cancerous lesions, or if you have certain medical devices like pacemakers. Always talk to a healthcare professional to find out if ultrasound therapy is a good choice for you.

Is Ultrasound Therapy a Viable Treatment for Chronic Pain?

Indeed, ultrasound therapy can serve as an effective means of managing chronic pain, especially when incorporated into a comprehensive treatment plan that could also include physical therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes.

What is the Recommended Frequency for Ultrasound Therapy Sessions?

The recommended number of ultrasound therapy sessions can vary based on the condition being treated and how the individual responds to the therapy. A typical treatment plan may involve sessions 2-3 times a week for a number of weeks. Your therapist will collaborate with you to determine the most suitable schedule for your situation.

Will Health Insurance Pay for Ultrasound Therapy?

Whether or not ultrasound therapy is covered by health insurance depends on the insurance plan. Some insurance plans may cover the therapy if it's determined to be medically necessary, while others may not. It's important to check your benefits with your insurance company and talk to your healthcare provider about any costs you may have to pay out of pocket.

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