Medical use of Waves!

Waves are great for helping make sense of things around us.

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 …and to help make sense of things inside us as well!

If the doctor thinks you’ve broken a bone, they’ll send you to get an X-Ray image.  As you probably know, this is a way of getting a picture of what’s going on inside your body.  X-Rays are a very cool kind of wave. Unlike light, they can pass through your body.

That’s right.  X-Ray waves generally pass through your body, through your skin and soft tissues to the other side where they are recorded using special machinery.  When the X-Rays go all the way through, they create a black image.


But when X-Rays hits objects like bones or organs such as your kidneys, the waves are blocked and a white image is created.  And that’s how you get those black and white X-Ray images!

There’s another type of wave used by medical experts, it’s called Ultrasound. This uses sound waves to look inside the body.  The sound waves bounce off things like an echo in a cave.  Different types of tissue, like fluid, bone or muscle, send back different sounding echoes which are translated into a moving image by a computer. This is essentially the technology used in the coybely pocket doppler, which mothers use to monitor the heart rate of their unborn child.


The great thing about waves is that they not only help doctors work out what’s going on inside our bodies, they can also help treat diseases too.  A type of wave called Gamma rays can kill cancer cells. A machine called a ’gamma knife’ converges hundreds of gamma rays onto a tumour with remarkable accuracy. And as well as looking inside you, some ultrasound waves can help ease the pain of muscle injuries.

gamma knife

So you can see waves are amazing!  They can help us to figure out what’s going on inside our bodies, and even help us get better too.

Click below to learn all about waves!

So You Want to Know About… Waves? is supported by The Institute of Physics