Side-effects of ultrasound therapy

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Side-effects of ultrasound therapy
(Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Ultrasound therapy is a powerful medial tool capable of both alleviating pain and treating various medical conditions. Based on the same technology that made sonar a viable means of submersible navigation and mapping, ultrasound therapy harnesses subsonic emanations to destroy tumours, reduce the size of varicose veins, clean teeth, kill bacteria, and alleviate muscular and joint pain. But for all it promises, there are some side effects that should be considered.

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Types of Ultrasound Therapy

There are several types of ultrasound therapy, including physiotherapy; cancer treatment; cataract removal; cosmetic plastic surgery (liposuction and vein treatments); and dental therapies. The most prevalent form of ultrasound therapy is physiotherapy, wherein ultrasound waves are used to relax soft and connective tissues. This is a popular treatment used by chiropractic facilities, especially for patients who may have experienced whiplash. Ultrasound therapy is used less frequently to destroy and minimise tumours, especially brain tumours.

Benefits of Ultrasound Therapy

Ultrasound therapy is highly effective at two seemingly conflicted poles of medical application. On one hand, it is very effective at destroying cancerous cells and cysts. On the other hand, ultrasound therapy, especially when used in low-intensity, pulsed bursts, has been shown to speed recovery time by stimulating cell reproduction. According to the Journal of Sports Medicine (2003), when ultrasound therapy was used to repair a fresh fracture, it "reduced healing times by between 30 and 38%. When applied to non-united fractures, it stimulated union in 86% of cases."

Side Effects

Despite its medicinal and therapeutic benefits, there are some side effects to be aware of with ultrasonic therapy. Indeed, the general practice of ultrasound therapy is regarded as safe and effective, but there have been some minor cases of physical pain due to "cavitation." Described as a burning feeling, cavitation is caused by the heating of the gas contained in tissue cell nuclei. This can result in difficulty breathing, dizziness, nausea and disorientation.

Misconceptions

Ultrasound therapy is often confused with ultrasonic imaging, also referred to as ultrasonography. Ultrasonography is typically used to create MRI imaging and fetal sonograms, while ultrasound therapy entails a concentrated use of lower ultrasonic frequencies. Ultrasonography can also be used to create images of soft tissues, bones and internal organs. Employing basic ultrasonic frequencies yields vastly different applications that can sound confusing. It should be noted that ultrasonic therapies include the use of ultrasound frequencies for bacterial sweeps and cleaning.

Warning

According to the Radiological Society of North America, ultrasound therapy has been found to be "a safe, effective, and highly flexible imaging modality capable of providing clinically relevant information about most parts of the body in a rapid and cost-effective fashion." That being said, if any session of ultrasound therapy causes physical discomfort, ask that it be stopped immediately. Prolonged exposure to maladjusted frequencies can cause serious tissue and neurological damage. Dizziness or disorientation are symptoms of overexposure to ultrasonic frequencies.

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