Are You Using the Right Electrical Stimulation and Ultrasound Treatments?

The technology behind electrical stimulation and ultrasound treatments continues to change. Unfortunately, the administration of electrical stimulation and ultrasound treatments hasn’t always kept pace with the changing technology. Physical therapists recently had the opportunity to learn the correct way to complete electrical stimulation and ultrasound treatments at a seminar sponsored by Advantage Medical Rehab Equipment and Supplies.

The one-day seminar provided physical therapists with a comprehensive overview of the history, theories and proper administration of ultrasound and electrical stimulation treatments. Participants learned the correct frequency and time required to correctly achieve a 1 to 4 degree rise in tissue temperature when using an ultrasound. The guidelines for achieving a rise in tissue temperature are outlined below:

Tissue Temperature Rise
(Degrees Centigrade)
1.0 MHz Frequency (1.0 w/cm2)
Time Required
3.0 MHz Frequency (1.0 w/cm2)
Time Required
1 2 minutes 32 seconds 51 seconds
2 5 minutes 4 seconds 1 minute 42 seconds
3 7 minutes 35 seconds 2 minutes 32 seconds
4 10 minutes 6 seconds 3 minutes 22 seconds

Seminar participants also learned proper techniques for completing nerve blocks, pain modulation, muscle re-education, tissue healing, edema management and other electrical simulation and ultrasound treatments. A few simple things physical therapists can do to immediately improve electrical stimulation and ultrasound treatment administration include:

1. Avoid using ultrasound gel warmers.  When heated, the viscosity of the ultrasound gel decreases and reduces the efficiency of sound wave transmittal.  
2. Take it easy. During an ultrasound treatment, gently glide the ultrasound head on top of the gel along the patient’s body. Do not press so hard on the device that the gel pushes out from the sound head. The added pressure can make the treatment less effective and more painful for the patient.
3. Use quality electrodes. The type of electrodes you use impacts outcomes. Mesh electrodes may cost less but do not conduct electricity as well as carbon based electrodes. To provide patients with the best possible outcomes invest in carbon-based electrodes.
4. Take time to consider the patient before doing a treatment.  Take your patient’s age, health and purpose of treatment into consideration.  Use this information to determine the right frequency to use for the treatment you’re planning to give.  
5. Talk with patients prior to giving a treatment. Help patients understand how the treatment works, how they can expect the treatment to feel and any risks and benefits associated with the procedure.

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