For five years, scientists at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom tested the supposedly latest, greatest medical marvel for healing leg ulcers — treatment with a high tech ultrasound wand. Only, it turns out, it does absolutely nothing to speed up the healing process of leg ulceration.
However, the researchers found out what did produce results: The key is common sense, cheap, easy-to-deliver care involving simply wearing support stockings, exercise, and a healthy diet along with a surprising additional “prescription” — laughter.
Yes, that’s no joke. The scientists found laughter actually produced physiological changes that help leg ulcers heal.
“The ‘healing energy’ of low-dose ultrasound can make a difference to some medical conditions but with venous leg ulcers, this is simply not the case,” Professor Andrea Nelson of the University of Leeds School of Healthcare said in a statement to the media. “The key to care with this group of patients is to stimulate blood flow back up the legs to the heart. The best way to do that is with compression bandages and support stockings — not ‘magic wands’ — coupled with advice on diet and exercise.”
“Believe it or not, having a really hearty chuckle can help too,” added Dr. Nelson, who headed the study. “This is because laughing gets the diaphragm moving and this plays a vital part in moving blood around the body.” (Read more.)
People with varicose veins or mobility problems (including the obese) are most at risk for venous leg ulcers because their “muscle pumps” in the feet and calves labor to drive blood up to the heart. These ulcers can be very painful as well as disfiguring, so they can significantly impact health and quality of life in a negative way. Unfortunately, a significant proportion of these sores take a year or longer to heal. And the older and larger ulcers are, the more difficult healing can become. That’s why scientists tried the high-tech ultrasound treatment to see if it would help.
Working with patients from across the UK and Ireland, the research team found that adding ultrasound to the standard care, including compression stockings, made no difference to the speed of healing or the chance of the ulcers coming back — all it did was add an extra large medical bill to the treatment.
Source: VenUS III, a randomised controlled trial of therapeutic ultrasound in the management of venous leg ulcers. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21375959.