Understanding Therapeutic Ultrasound

Category: Community Corner, Education, Learning Centre, Patient Education

Understanding Therapeutic Ultrasound

Has your Physiotherapist recommended therapeutic ultrasound as part of your treatment plan? If so, you may want to learn more about this modality and how it works. This blog will provide an overview of therapeutic ultrasound to help you know more about the treatment your Physiotherapist is recommending.

What is therapeutic ultrasound?

You may have heard of diagnostic ultrasound, the type of ultrasound pregnant women have to see the baby in their womb. Diagnostic ultrasound is also used to see soft tissue of a body part, such as to check the health of tendons in the shoulder. Therapeutic ultrasound is based on the same technology as diagnostic ultrasound but, instead, is used for treating an injury and not to diagnose.


“Ultrasound” refers to sound waves at a very high frequency and not audible to the human ear. During therapeutic ultrasound, these sound waves are transmitted to the injured tissues as mechanical energy through an ultrasound machine and gel applied to the skin.

How does therapeutic ultrasound help my injury?

The mechanical energy from the therapeutic ultrasound affects injured tissues at the cellular level. It accelerates the inflammatory process, creating a good environment for soft tissue repair. Specific doses of

therapeutic ultrasound also have the additional effect of heating tissues. This results in added benefits such as dilating blood vessels to bring more blood flow and nutrients to the injured tissue, enhancing soft tissue repair. It also increases tissue flexibility and decreases muscle spasms.

Therapeutic ultrasound is quite versatile. With appropriate doses, it can be used to promote healing of a ligament sprain or muscle strain, to heat and improve the flexibility of a contractured (pathologically shortened) muscle, and even to break up bony spurs that can aggravate tissues such as in some cases of plantar fasciitis.

Is therapeutic ultrasound safe?

Bella doing an ultrasoundTherapeutic ultrasound is safe and effective when applied by a trained healthcare professional such as your Physiotherapist. Your Physiotherapist may have asked you about your medical history to ensure that therapeutic ultrasound is safe for you. For example, the Physiotherapist will not apply therapeutic ultrasound over an area of cancerous tissue or use it with a patient with a hemorrhagic condition.

During therapeutic ultrasound, you should simply feel the ultrasound head moving over your skin and possibly some warmth if the Physiotherapist applies a heating dose. Always let your Physiotherapist know if you feel any discomfort or excessive heat.

If you have any further questions about therapeutic ultrasound, please do not hesitate to ask your Physiotherapist or reach out to us at 905-731-1991 or staff@promotionphysiotherapy.com.


Miller, D. L., Smith, N. B., Bailey, M. R., Czarnota, G. J., Hynynen, K., Makin, I. R., & Bioeffects Committee of the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine (2012). Overview of therapeutic ultrasound applications and safety considerations. Journal of ultrasound in medicine: official journal of the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine31(4), 623–634. https://doi.org/10.7863/jum.2012.31.4.623


Best, T. M., Wilk, K. E., Moorman, C. T., & Draper, D. O. (2016). Low-Intensity Ultrasound for Promoting Soft Tissue Healing: A Systematic Review of the Literature and Medical Technology. Internal medicine review (Washington, D.C.: Online)2(11), 271. https://doi.org/10.18103/imr.v2i11.271

Written by Bella Levi, Registered Physiotherapist