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When it comes to healthcare, ultrasound is generally recognized as a useful diagnostic tool that can help doctors visualize the body’s internal structures. However, this imaging technology is sometimes presented as a way to address chronic back pain. Is this claim substantiated? Find out by looking at what the science has to say.

Ultrasound and Back Pain: The Theory

Supporters of using ultrasound for back pain claim that vibrations from sonic waves can help patients find relief. During ultrasound therapy, a small wand is passed over the skin above the painful area. This wand emits ultrasound waves, which vibrate through the tissue. The theory is that these waves produce heat that relaxes tight muscles and improves flexibility, helping to ease pain from compressive disorders such as herniated discs and sciatica. Ultrasound therapy is described as being non-invasive and safe enough to be repeated several times a day.

What Does the Science Say About Ultrasound for Back Pain?

A study conducted in 2013 compared the effectiveness of ultrasound therapy and osteopathic manual treatment, a hands-on type of treatment that is similar to what you might experience from chiropractic care. A group of 455 patients with chronic low back pain received six osteopathic manual treatments and ultrasound therapy over the course of eight weeks. The patients who underwent the manual treatment saw a moderate improvement in their back pain when compared to a control group who received “sham” osteopathic treatment. However, no improvement was seen among patients who received ultrasound therapy.

In this same study, patients who underwent osteopathic manual treatments reported being very satisfied with their care throughout the course of their treatment. They also relied on prescription pain drugs less frequently than the control group. These differences were not observed in patients who underwent ultrasound.

Finding the Right Treatment for Your Back Pain

The most recent science concludes that there is very little evidence that ultrasound therapy is an effective method for addressing back pain. If you are living with chronic discomfort in your back, consider reaching out to a chiropractor instead. Chiropractic care focuses on hands-on manipulation and mobilization techniques that relieve pain and restore joint function in the back, neck and other areas of the body. Your chiropractor will also spend time reviewing your medical history and discussing your day-to-day lifestyle with you to help pinpoint the cause of your discomfort. Together you will build a plan to help address your symptoms, reduce the risk of further injury and maintain your overall musculoskeletal health.

While ultrasound therapy may not be an effective treatment for back pain, there are still many options out there that don’t involve the risks of drugs or surgery. There’s no reason to keep living with the pain or limitations of back pain. We can help! Call or visit our office today to learn more about our approach.

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