Ultrasound and ultrasound muscle therapy are increasingly used for arthritis diagnosis, treatment and pain reduction. This is not surprising since population statistics indicate senior citizens are one of the fastest growing population groups in the United States. One impact is an increasing need for ultrasound technicians who are experts in detecting and treating medical conditions like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis that are common to older people.
Aging Population and Joint Disease
The U.S. population is aging at a rapid rate. By the year 2030 the Administration on Aging projects there will be approximately 72.1 million people who are 65-years-old or older. That means one out of every five people will be 65-years-old or older. Currently, one out of three people are 50-years-old or older. The senior population is growing faster than the population of younger people, reflecting the aging of the Baby Boomers. Every year, from this point forward until 2030, there will be 3.5 million people reaching the age of 55-years-old each year.
Most people know that older people often develop some form of arthritis. Osteoarthritis is a common cause of disability among older men and women. There are already 12.4 million people aged 65-years-old and older who have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis, a disease marked by joint cartilage breakdown. Rheumatoid arthritis is another common disease which appears most often in people who are 50-years-old or older. RA is an inflammatory disease that impacts the joints and tissues that include the lungs, blood vessels, skin, and eyes.
As the population ages, there will be greater demand for non-invasive medical procedures that address the common diseases of older people. Since ultrasound physical therapy has been successfully used for many years in physical therapy settings, and the ultrasound therapy risks are extremely low, it is not surprising that ultrasound waves are taking a front-and-center position in the treatment of arthritis.
Musculoskeletal Ultrasound: Another Good Use of Imaging
When the ARDMS added the Registered in Musculoskeletal sonography credential, it was in recognition of the fact that the ultrasound machine was already being used for a host of purposes that included performing ultrasonography of crystalline arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, assessment of osteoarthritis, sonography of nerve entrapments and ultrasound-guided injections.
In fact, ultrasound waves are being used for direct treatment of arthritis and not just as a diagnostic tool or a support procedure for radiology treatments. Higher-level ultrasound waves are proving effective in relieving pain, calming tissue inflammation and promoting tissue healing. The waves create a thermal effect in tissues that cannot be reached with items like heating pads. The heat is created as a result of the ultrasound wave induced tissue vibrations.
Creating deep tissue heat can increase circulation and provide a natural effect similar to a massage. In addition, the ultrasound waves producing tissue heat also appear to encourage healing, decrease pain, reduce swelling and decrease inflammation. It may also increase the extensibility of the tissues most impacted by arthritis, like joint capsules, tendons and ligaments.
When applied to the hand and wrists, patients experience less morning stiffness, less joint swelling and pain, and greater flexibility in the wrist. Ultrasound has also been found to promote bone healing when arthritis has caused bone deformities or erosion.
Arthritis is a progressive disease and may display symptoms randomly. Rheumatoid arthritis is particularly tricky in that it can appear to be in remission when in fact the inflammation is continuing to destroy joints and even organs. Musculoskeletal ultrasound imaging is increasingly used to detect inflammation in patients who falsely appear to be in remission.
Preparing for Expanded Career Opportunities
Greater ultrasound use for detecting and treating arthritis is creating excellent career opportunities. For example, there is likely to be a growing number of sonographers who will decide to add the MSK credential by taking the appropriate exam. Only sonographers who are already ARDMS certified may sit for the exam.
Once the RMSK registration is completed, the sonographers can work with a large variety of physicians and specialists and will be the most qualified to work in facilities and clinics that offer ultrasound muscle therapy in sports medicine, chiropractics, rheumatology, orthopedic surgery, osteopathy, podiatry, physical rehabilitation, and of course, radiology. The ARDMS lists the accepted Continuing Medical Education (CME) courses in Musculoskeletal Ultrasound on its website. The completion of CMEs in MSK is not required to sit for the exam, but it is highly recommended.