A survey of therapeutic ultrasound use by physical therapists who are orthopaedic certified specialists

Phys Ther. 2007 Aug;87(8):986-94. doi: 10.2522/ptj.20050392. Epub 2007 Jun 6.


Background and purpose: For many years, ultrasound (US) has been a widely used and well-accepted physical therapy modality for the management of musculoskeletal conditions. However, there is a lack of scientific evidence on its effectiveness. This study examined the opinions of physical therapists with advanced competency in orthopedics about the use and perceived clinical importance of US in managing commonly encountered orthopedic impairments.

Subjects: Four hundred fifty-seven physical therapists who were orthopaedic certified specialists from the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States were invited to participate.

Methods: A 77-item survey instrument was developed. After face and content validity were established, the survey instrument was mailed to all subjects. Two hundred seven usable survey questionnaires were returned (response rate=45.3%).

Results: According to the surveys, the respondents indicated that they were likely to use US to decrease soft tissue inflammation (eg, tendinitis, bursitis) (83.6% of the respondents), increase tissue extensibility (70.9%), enhance scar tissue remodeling (68.8%), increase soft tissue healing (52.5%), decrease pain (49.3%), and decrease soft tissue swelling (eg, edema, joint effusion) (35.1%). The respondents used US to deliver medication (phonophoresis) for soft tissue inflammation (54.1%), pain management (22.2%), and soft tissue swelling (19.8%). The study provides summary data of the most frequently chosen machine parameters for duty cycle, intensity, and frequency.

Discussion and conclusion: Ultrasound continues to be a popular adjunctive modality in orthopedic physical therapy. These findings may help researchers prioritize needs for future research on the clinical effectiveness of US.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Manipulation, Orthopedic / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Physical Therapy Specialty / methods*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Ultrasonic Therapy / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States