Real Time Ultrasound is a tool used by Physiotherapists to look at the muscles inside your body from the outside. RTUS provides a moving image of the muscles, allowing your Physiotherapist to point out which muscles should be working and when you are activating them correctly.
Most commonly we look at the Deep Abdominals (Transverse Abs or TA), the Pelvic Floor Muscles and the deep muscles of the lower back (Multifidus) to assess their activation and function. The RTUS can then be used as a training tool to help you recruit and strengthen the muscles. Being able to see the muscles as you exercise leads to a better understanding of how to activate them because you get immediate visual feedback as you learn.
The equipment used in RTUS imaging is non-invasive (does not pierce the skin) and does not use radiation. Ultrasound uses high frequency sound waves and their echoes to produce an image, it is the same type of machine that is used to look at unborn babies in the womb. The Physiotherapist uses a hand-held probe which transmits high frequency sound waves into your body. The soundwaves are reflected back into the probe when they hit a boundary between tissues (eg. between muscle and fluid, or bone and muscle) and then relayed back to the machine for processing. Some waves travel further than others, hence the ability to see the layers at different depths within the body.
In cases of Acute or Chronic Lower Back Pain, Poor Posture, Incontinence or following spinal and abdominal surgery (including C-sections) your Physiotherapist may suggest using RTUS as part of your treatment. The core stabilizing muscles often switch off when you are experiencing pain, but with training you can learn to switch these muscles back on helping them to start activating automatically on a day to day basis.
When attending a real-time ultrasound appointment, please ensure you have an ‘almost full’ bladder as this greatly enhances the image clarity. The first session will typically take up to an hour and you may require one or more 30 minute follow up sessions. Your sessions may be claimable through your private health fund extras cover.