Ultrasound & Electrotherapy
As an adjunct to osteopathic manipulation, I often use electrotherapy equipment for pain relief and to assist healing. These consist of principally Ultrasound and Interferential.
Therapeutic ultrasound involves the delivery of ultrasonic waves into body tissues. This can relieve pain and stimulate healing.
Some injuries are associated with a chronic recurrence of the same problem or have repetitive strain complications. This can lead to slow and inefficient healing. Certain tissues can also take longer to heal due to a lower rate of cell metabolism and/or less blood or nutrient flow. This is typical of the more connective tissue-dense tissues e.g. ligaments, tendons, joint capsules and fibrotic muscle. By taking longer to heal there is also a greater risk of a chronic complication arising.
The delivery of an appropriate dose of ultrasound to such an injury can excite cellular activity and so optimise certain pathways within the inflammatory reaction. This can significantly accelerate healing.
There are 4 parameters with ultrasound treatment: Time, Frequency, Pulse Ratio and Intensity. These need to be calibrated, according to the injury type, size, depth and stage of healing, in order to produce the desired effect. I will therefore tailor the dose to your specific problem and this is based on the most up to date research in this field.
Ultrasound is therefore not an anti-inflammatory treatment in the same way as ice or medication but rather reduces inflammation by helping to resolve the condition more quickly.
A note of caution regarding the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) e.g. ibuprofen, diclofenac, or naproxen. There is a significant body of evidence to show that the use of these medications for musculoskeletal injuries may delay and interfere with normal healing. Here are some links to research 1, 2, and here for general information on tissue healing. Providing the side effects are not too adverse the use of NSAIDs may be appropriate for the short- term management of acute cases (i.e. days), but longer-term use increases the risk of side effects and may add to the risk of chronic complications.
Ultrasound can therefore be helpful in longer-term conditions, where it can be a boost to the healing response, especially where NSAIDs have been repeatedly used.