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What is Therapeutic Ultrasound?

What is Therapeutic Ultrasound?
What is Therapeutic Ultrasound?


Therapeutic Ultrasound is a method of stimulating tissue beneath the skin's surface using sound waves. It is a very high frequency massage that can penetrate up to 5" below the surface of your skin.

The sound waves are of a very high frequency, typically between 800,000Hz and 2,000,000Hz. The sound cannot be heard by humans or animals. Humans can only hear sounds up to about 20,000Hz. This very high frequency sound affects very small molecules though like medicines and cells in your body and actually causes them to move.


How ultrasound energy is transferred into the body is a function of many factors. The frequency of the ultrasound waves is actually opposite to how deep they will penetrate the body. A 1MHz ultrasound will penetrate about 4" below the skin whereas a 2MHz ultrasound unit will only penetrate about 2". While a low frequency means deeper penetration, using too low a frequency will mean that the waves are too wide to properly move the molecules. The frequency also has a significant impact on the phonophoretic properties of the ultrasound. Ultrasound Device is specially tuned to a frequency that maximizes nutrient penetration, energy transfer and phonophoresis.


Power output is another significant factor. It is measured in watts per square centimeter. The higher the power, the more energy is transferred into the body. If too high a power output is used and an ultrasound unit is left sitting still on the body, it is possible to burn the tissue beneath the skin. While several professional ultrasound machines are capable of these high powers, your medical practitioner will typically use a low power setting. More power is not necessarily better. Practitioners usually use a higher power to speed up treatment though it is actually more effective to use a lower power setting for a longer period of time. Our ultrasound kit is preset at the safest and most effective intensity level for therapeutic applications.

Peak Intensity vs. Average Intensity

The power output rating is often broken down into two separate units, peak intensity and average intensity. Peak intensity can be thought of as how tall the waves are that are being sent into your body. The waves need to be large enough to affect the tissue and provide the desired massage effect. At the same time, your body tissue needs breaks between groups of waves to cool down. So, Ultrasound machines actually send the waves in groups giving your body a vibrate-rest-vibrate-rest effect. The average intensity is a measure of how much energy is transferred over a period vibrate-rest cycles.

Often Ultrasound machines provide a Total Power Output rating. High power units are typically used with large applicator heads to do larger parts of the body. The important measurement part of ultrasound is the watts per square centimeter mentioned above, not the total unit power. Again, it is more effective to treat the affected area more frequently and for longer periods with lower power.

Wave Form

Wave form refers to the shape of signal generating the ultrasound wave. Common wave forms are saw-tooth, square wave, and sinusoidal. The wave form impacts the frequency, intensity, and power of a unit as discussed above altering the effectiveness of the ultrasound treatment. Correct wave form is also very important for phonophoresis as the ultrasound waves drive the medication through the tissue.

Why does Ultrasound Therapy require Ultrasound Gel?

When applied directly to the skin, an ultrasound head cannot effectively transfer the sound waves into the body. To make it work properly, a conductive medium is required - ultrasound gel. The gel simply makes it possible for the sound waves to travel from the unit head into your body. Ultrasound without gel is ineffective and can damage the ultrasound machine.

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