Applying Therapeutic Ultrasound At Home

The therapeutic use of ultrasound to treat soft tissue injury and pain is now extending beyond the doctor's office, chiropractor's office, and physical therapy clinic. Clinicians often recommend ultrasound therapy as a treatment for sports injuries, upper back pain, rotator cuff pain, and arthritic knee pain.

But if scheduling ultrasound therapy is inconvenient, evolving technologies in portable home ultrasound units and devices you can wear allow you to apply ultrasound treatment at home. The application is noninvasive with no serious side effects being reported.

Types of Home Devices

Portable Units

Portable units that you can use at home or while traveling are lightweight and come with what you need in a compact carrying case. To use the ultrasound device, plug a universal AC adapter into an electrical outlet and apply a conductive gel to the area you are going to treat. Apply treatment by lightly rubbing the sound head (transducer) in a circular motion over the skin surface of the painful area.

Wearable Devices

An ultrasound device that you wear at home has applicators or self-adhesive patches that attach to your skin. Wires connect the patches to a small hand-held device, usually referred to as a controller. With a home unit, you can apply ultrasound treatment at home or at work at a time that is convenient for you.

How Therapeutic Ultrasound Works

Unlike the ultrasound machines doctors and hospitals use for imaging, ultrasound units clinicians use to treat pain emit higher energy impulses. High-frequency sound waves penetrate the skin surface to the tissue below.

Although the findings of studies have shown mixed results on the effectiveness of ultrasound therapy, the continuous frequency of the sound waves generates heat in deep tissues that may stimulate the healing process. In particular, muscle pain and the pain and stiffness related to arthritis respond to heat, which helps relax muscles, increase muscle flexibility, and loosen stiff joints.

Therapeutic ultrasound also may improve circulation, which gets more oxygen to the painful area. Since body tissue needs a continuous supply of oxygen to heal, increasing oxygen to the area can help the muscles, tendons, or damaged tissue recover more quickly.

Factors to Consider

The cost of a home unit varies depending on the quality of the device, and not all insurance plans provide coverage. While not all ultrasound units for use in your home require a prescription, your doctor or physical therapist can recommend a home device that would best suit your needs. Look for a unit that is FDA-approved and comes from a distributor accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Health Care (ACHC).

When You Should Not Use Therapeutic Ultrasound

You should not use a home ultrasound device until a doctor or other medical provider has diagnosed the cause of your pain. There are certain body parts over which you should not apply therapeutic ultrasound. If you are pregnant, do not use the device over your abdomen. Also, you should not apply ultrasound:

  • Near your eyes

  • Over an area where there is a malignant tumor

  • Over your chest if you have a pacemaker or suffer from cardiac disease

  • Over the spine area if you've had any type of spinal surgery

  • If you have a medical condition that can cause excessive bleeding

To learn more about ultrasound, contact a company like Hudson Valley Imaging