See your muscles move in real time; enhance your understanding of how your body works

Real-time ultrasound is used by physiotherapists to examine muscles while they contract, to look at the size of the muscle, the quality of the muscle contraction and the timing of the muscle contraction in relation to other muscles. The small stabilizing muscles of the spine, lower abdomen and the pelvic floor are viewed. Hip muscles can also be examined.

While you watch your muscles’ contracting (which is a form of biofeedback) you can learn how to make the contraction stronger or more gentle and to isolate or refine the muscle contraction if needed. Along with your physical assessment your physiotherapist will develop the most effective exercise programme for you. This may include home exercises, hands on treatment, functional restoration or a Pilates’ programme.

What we know about the spinal stability muscles and lower back pain

Scientific research has shown that the Transversus Abdominus (TA) muscle in the lower abdomen, which with the other trunk muscles forms a muscular corset of support for the spine, is inhibited and does not act normally when people have lower back pain. Furthermore, without a specific strengthening programme it will not return to full strength even when the back pain has gone away. We also have an understanding of how far the TA needs to move to create an effective core stability cylinder to support the spine.

More recent research is suggesting that there is also a close link between pelvic floor muscle control and lower back pain.

What is Real Time Ultrasound Imaging (RTUI)?

Ultrasound (US) or sonography involves sending high frequency sound waves through the body. The sound waves are reflected off the various internal body parts. The reflected waves are interpreted by the ultrasound machine to form an image of the body parts which we can see on the ultrasound machine screen.

How is it done?

A small ultrasound head and gel is placed on various muscles of the lower abdomen and back. Clients wear comfortable loose clothing when they come for assessment such as a t-shirt and tracksuit pants. If the pelvic floor muscles are to be visualised, you need to come with a moderately full bladder.

People who can benefit from real time ultrasound imaging

  • People who suffer from:
    • Sub-acute, recurrent and chronic or persisting lower back pain
    • Arthritic lower back pain
    • Obstetric lower back pain
    • Pre and post-spinal surgery
  • People recovering from an episode of lower back pain, who feel weak and unstable and want to strengthen their trunk muscles
  • People with pelvic floor muscle problems such as stress incontinence
  • People who need a high level of core stability such as:
    • Injured workers returning to normal duties
    • People who are required to repetitively lift heavy objects or work in awkward positions such as trades men and women, parents/carers of small children and child care workers, people in the health industry, personal care workers and workers in the hospitality industry to name a few
    • Everyone who plays sports including athletes, dancers, gymnasts and footballers

What are the costs involved?

The cost of RTUI is the same as for normal physiotherapy costs.

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