Ultrasound Therapy and Combating Athletic Injuries

Injuries from over-exertion plague people everyday. Medical professionals have created accepted practices to treat muscle and joint pain commonly caused by over-exertion through physical activity.

While pain is the body’s necessary response to the extreme duress caused by a workout, our technological advances now allow people to avoid painkillers and bury medical misconceptions. The fast-growing use of therapeutic ultrasound technology and the current goal to commercialize this tool is changing pain relief practices.

Man lying down get ultrasound therapy to back

Causes of Pain for Athletes

Muscle pain in athletes is perhaps the largest ailment faced by the professional or weekend warrior athlete. The perception of soreness and moderate pain are good ways to recognize how your body is dealing with stress on your muscles. The pain can result from a number of underlying causes such as:

  • Micro-tears to the individual muscle fibers
  • Increased cellular metabolism and localized waste product accumulation
  • Changes in enzymatic efflux (among others) that result in the initiation of an inflammatory response of the tissue.

Everyday running can strain and injure muscles in a variety of ways. Sprinting and high-intensity workouts can easily tear muscle fibers and create focused points of injury throughout bulk tissue. The localization of these injuries is due to the body’s biomechanics and failure modes of soft tissue. Extended muscle fatigue from endurance-based running results in different types of consequences, including:

  • Waste products from cellular activity build up
  • Muscle fiber strains and wear
  • Uniform aggravation of the muscle fibers

Pain is essentially your body telling you something is wrong. Ignoring the signals of over-exertion can lead to extensive joint or structural problems later in life.

Possible Solutions

The sporting community traditionally prescribes certain tactics for pain relief, including:

  • ŸStretching, which is the most common post-workout cool-down strategy. It   is typically thought to help alleviate pain caused during or after the workout. While this accepted practice certainly isn’t something doctors discourage people from doing, there are issues that need to be addressed. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stretching/HQ01447
  • ŸCertain types of apparel make claims of improved performance and results. Many products, such as the Sketchers Shape Ups, make these proclamations without the support of medical research.
  • ŸWhey protein powders have become increasingly accessible and, as a result, more popular in post-workout regiments. While there are accepted hypotheses to the practicality and physical benefits of the protein, unsafe levels of arsenic and metallic toxins in certain products have been noted.

The Rise of Ultrasound Technology

Ultrasound therapy is a mechanical and thermal therapeutic modality that incorporates the same energy form of ultrasound imaging used for looking into the human body. Runners and other athletes do not traditionally have access to ultrasound therapy since it is only prescribed by medical professionals and must be administered by certified personnel. Despite these obstacles, it can aid in recovery from injuries from intense training and as a pre-treatment prior to athletic competitions.

Along with many other therapeutic strategies, the thermal analgesic effect is generally temporary for most athletes. Through mechanical ultrasound therapy, however, the effects may be more pronounced in actually helping the muscles recover faster and speed up the inflammatory cascade process. A speedier recovery for the patient could be possible.

Therapy seeks to address the underlying causes of pain rather than mask them like over-the-counter and prescription medicines like aspirin or ibuprofen. Ultrasound therapy increases local circulation, diffusion and convection of cellular metabolites, and the movement of waste products. This results in a more rapid efflux of nutrients to support remodeling and healing and the removal of deposits such as lactic acid.

The micro-mechanical stimulation of the muscle fibers through ultrasound therapy, combined with the compression and rarefactions of the ultrasound field, provides a stimulus on the tissue that can increase intracellular kinetics on a microscopic level.

Recently, developments have been made to miniaturize (http://www.zetroz.com) the application of therapeutic ultrasound over long durations, making the process even more convenient and effective.

Pharmaceuticals, both prescription and over the counter, are the most popular pain reduction tools to help in recovery after significant muscle exertions. Unfortunately, drugs primarily work on masking that pain and not actively healing the injured area. Furthermore, the side effects and risks of pharmaceuticals are always high – even for individuals who use them sparingly.

By reducing inflammation and alleviating the pain from these types of chronic injuries, ultrasound therapy serves to help the avascular and vascularized  tissues heal more quickly. The broad uses of ultrasound therapy, along with the safety and effectiveness of the treatment, could make it an athlete’s new best friend.

George Lewis

George Lewis, PhD is the Chief Scientific Officer, inventor and co-founder at ZetrOZ, the makers of the word’s smallest ultrasound pain therapy device. The device addresses the demands of non-pharmaceutical alternatives to current pain treatments in the over $200 billion global pain management market.

One thought on “Ultrasound Therapy and Combating Athletic Injuries

  • February 11, 2013 at 8:26 am

    Wow, I did not know that this technology was available. I loved getting my ultrasound treatments from my physical therapist. I hope these devices are for sale in the US soon. One additional thought. You wrote: “Unfortunately, drugs primarily work on masking that pain and not actively healing the injured area.” I just wanted to mention that this is not true of all drugs. AminoActiv is a natural anti-inflammatory that actually supports healing while it relieves pain.


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