Ultrasound Warms Neck or Back Muscles for Active Physical Therapy

Gentle penetrating heat soothes and relaxes spinal muscles

Written by Dana L. Davis, MPT, MTT
Reviewed by Mary Rodts, DNP

Ultrasound is a passive modality, meaning a treatment your physcial therapist administers. It is a supplement to the primary treatment (eg, therapeutic stretching, exercise). Ultrasound can help relax tight muscles that are sore, and warms muscles and soft tissues, which increases circulation that helps healing.
What is ultrasound? 
Ultrasound equipment generates high-frequency sound waves that are transferred to a specific body area via a round-headed probe. The sound waves travel deep into tissue (eg. muscles), creating gentle heat.

How is treatment administered?
The physical therapist usually applies a hypoallergenic gel to the skin, which creates a friction-free surface. Using gentle, circular motions with the probe, the therapist administers the treatment, which lasts several minutes.

Ultrasound can also be used in phonophoresis. This treatment involves the application of a topical anti-inflammatory. The anti-inflammatory medication can be mixed with the ultrasound gel and applied to the area using the probe. The ultrasonic sound waves force the medication to migrate into the tissues reducing inflammation.

Does the treatment hurt?
No. The patient will feel a tingling sensation in the treated area.

How does the patient benefit from ultrasound?
As the probe glides over the skin's surface, sound waves penetrate the skin's surface causing soft tissues to vibrate, creating heat. In turn, the heat induces vasodilation: drawing blood into the target tissues. Increased blood flow delivers needed oxygen and nutrients, and removes cell wastes.

The heat helps relieve pain and inflammation, reduce muscle spasms, and accelerate healing. Depending on the treatment area, range of motion may be increased.

Continue Reading

Back Pain and Spas: Hydrotherapy, Pilates, Yoga