Ultrasound technology uses a transmitter to omit sound waves that are directed toward the patient’s body. When those sound waves encounter various structures within the body, they bounce back toward the transmitter and are collected. The variations in sound wave patterns that are created by different surfaces lead to an image that both the practitioner and patient can view. Many people are familiar with ultrasound technology because of its common use throughout the stages of pregnancy. The same process that allows expecting parents to get that first glimpse of their unborn child can also be a powerful means of diagnosing and treating various sports medicine injuries.
Medical professionals make use of ultrasound technology to gain real-time imaging of the interior structures of the patient’s body. Ultrasound is often used on site during major sporting events when an athlete experiences a sudden traumatic injury. Being able to view the full extent of that injury allows athletic trainers and medical staff to quickly determine the appropriate course of action. The same process takes place within a physiatrist’s office, far from the bright lights and cheering crowds of an arena or stadium. Ultrasound technology also allows practitioners to view changes in muscles or tendons as the affected area is put through a range of motion.
Another way that ultrasound imaging is useful in a clinical setting involves the ability to gain real-time, highly accurate images of needle placement during various types of injection therapies. The injection of anesthetic or anti-inflammatory preparations can drastically reduce the experience of pain that brings many people in for professional treatment. However, any time that a needle is inserted into the body, there is a risk of damage. Ultrasound technology gives practitioners the ability to see exactly where a needle is placed, thereby reducing that risk. Using ultrasound to guide needle placement eliminates the need to use contrast dyes or to introduce radiation. That provides significant peace of mind to many patients who are seeking relief from spinal and joint pain.