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What is Phonophoresis?


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Phonophoresis is the use of ultrasound to enhance the delivery of topically applied drugs. Effectively, medicines contained within or under the ultrasound gel are pushed by the sound waves of the ultrasound and driven deep below the skin. Phonophoretically administered medications can penetrate the body to a much deeper level than those massaged by hand over the surface of the skin.

Not all medications can be delivered phonophoretically. The process is dependant on many, many factors. For example, the type of drug and molecule size are critical. The drug molecule has to be just the right size to be picked up by the ultrasound waves and the right size to pass through the body tissue. As well, the medicinal molecule can't react with the ultrasound gel. It must also be able to survive the thermal and vibrational effects of the ultrasound. The delivery of medications via ultrasound is truly a science unto its own.


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The duration of the treatment and the need to specifically adhere to a specific dose size is also a large consideration. Obviously, the longer ultrasound is used over a topical phonophoretic drug, the more the medication is delivered and the deeper it goes. Drugs that require very exact dosing, like insulin for example, cannot be controlled accurately enough to be delivered via Phonophoresis. Many natural analgesics and anti-inflammatory drugs though are excellent candidates for phonophoretic application.

One of the greatest benefits to delivering medications via phonophoresis is that the medication can be delivered locally to a desired area. Oral pain killers and anti-inflamatory drugs are introduced to the entire body in equal amounts. Even if you only need pain relief in your tennis elbow or an anti-inflammatory in your swollen bursa, with oral medications you end up drugging your entire body - your brain, your heart, your lungs even if they might not need the drug. With phonophoresis, the part of the body that receives the medication is the part of your body that needs it.


Where is Phonophoresis Typically Used?


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Phonophoresis is most commonly used by Physical Therapists and Chiropractors for the treatment of localized physical injuries. As a very cutting edge technology, phonophoresis is currently being studied for the use of a vast array of medications.


Articles on Phonophoresis

APTA Research Report (pdf)
BioMechanics Magazine Article

Conditions Treated With Phonophoresis:

  • post-injury conditions (dislocations, distortions of joints, inflammation of muscles, tendons, etc)
  • pain in rheumatic diseases
  • low-back pain of neurological origin (e.g. root pain, discopathies, sciatica)
  • Bursitis and similar inflammatory ailments
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Foot/Toe Sprains/Achilles Sprains and Strains
  • Ankle/Knee/Calf/Neck Sprains and Strains
  • Hip Sprains, Thigh Sprains/Strains
  • Ligament Strains
  • OsteoArthritis
  • Post - Exercise Recovery (when the workout goes a bit too far)
  • Plantar Fascitis (Heel Spurs)
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Shoulder Capulitis
  • Supraspinatus / Infraspinatus
  • Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Tendonitis (acute or chronic)
  • Tennis Elbow, Golfers Elbow,
  • Tension Headaches
  • Upper and Lower Back Strains
  • Wrist/ Hand/Elbow/Shoulder Sprains and Strains