Phonophoresis versus ultrasound in the treatment of common musculoskeletal conditions

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1998 Sep;30(9):1349-55. doi: 10.1097/00005768-199809000-00002.


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to determine whether the pain response after phonophoresis (PH) differs from the pain response after ultrasound (US) alone.

Methods: Forty-nine subjects with soft tissue injuries including epicondylitis, tendinitis, and tenosynovitis were randomly assigned (double blinded technique) to PH or US treatment groups. Both groups received 8 min of continuous US at 1.5 w x cm(-2), three times per week for 3 wk. For the PH group a gel containing 0.05% fluocinonide was used as a coupling agent. An identical gel absent the steroid was used for the US group. Subjects indicated their pain level by marking on a visual analog scale (VAS) at the start of treatment and at the end of weeks 1, 2, and 3. Pressure algometry was used to note tolerance to direct pressure over the target tissue. ANOVA for repeated measures was used to analyze data.

Results: At the end of 3 wk of treatment, both groups combined showed a significant decrease in pain level and an increase in pressure tolerance (P < 0.05), but there were no differences between groups from the onset of treatment to the end of week 3 (VAS: US 5.5-1.9, PH 5.0-2.0; algometry (involved limb): US 4.7 lb-7.1 lb, PH 5.1 lb-6.6 lb).

Conclusions: We conclude that US results in decreased pain and increased pressure tolerance in these selected soft tissue injuries. The addition of PH with fluocinonide does not augment the benefits of US used alone.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / therapy*
  • Pain Management
  • Phonophoresis*
  • Tendinopathy / therapy
  • Tennis Elbow / therapy
  • Tenosynovitis / therapy
  • Ultrasonic Therapy*