When learning a task the most useful thing is to have a great teacher….why?? To watch what you are doing and give you the best feedback on your performance.
In physiotherapy we often have to teach exercises for muscles located deep within our bodies (our core muscles – abdominals, pelvic floor, diaphragm). These muscles have stabilising role within our bodies and as such have a principal function of damping down unwanted movements. This in turn means they are hard to observe working in real time.
Ultrasound scanning is not a new phenomenon, we have been looking at babies in the womb and checking their health and development since the 1950’s. It is only in the last 10 years that physiotherapists have started to utilise it in their clinical care.
Real time ultrasound is a tool that therapists use to give the best feedback as to whether patients are turning on the right muscles deep inside themselves. It’s an important part of learning a new skill and enables the therapist to teach exercises more efficiently and accurately. It does not replace hard work on the part of the patient to perform the exercises but it can accelerate the outcome by ensuring that the skill acquisition phase occurs optimally.
More recently still, therapists are starting to learn how to perform musculoskeletal scans, to be able to observe tendinopathies, muscle tears, swelling within joints…and this is further helping them optimise the therapy intervention and refer on for more thorough investigations as needed.
All in all RTUS is a very valuable tool and in the hands of skilled and thoughtful therapists can be a tool that can assist in yielding optimal patient outcomes.