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Diathermy – Dennis M., OT

Diathermy (SWD) is the most often used for its deep heating capabilities through the application of high radiofrequency currents to the underlying tissues. Deep heating is caused by the conversion of energy into heat as it passes through the tissue, to a depth of two to five centimeters. It works best for injuries in joints, muscles, and tendons. Like surface heating, deep heat is used to: reduce pain relieve muscle spasm decrease soft-tissue contractures resolve inflammation and promote healing Deep heat speeds up healing by increasing blood flow to the injury. It may be used after cold treatments when inflammation and swelling are gone. Deep heat may be used to treat chronic arthritis, bursitis.

An advantage of to using SWD is that the overall area that can be heated will be larger than those covered by a hot pack or ultrasound.  Some of the precautions and or contraindic ations are as follows: pregnancy; pacemaker; metal implants; neural transmitters; never to be applied to the eyes, testes,epiphseal plates of children, areas of malignancy; watches and jewelry should be removed and the patient should not positioned on metal furniture during application. A visible sign should be posted in the treatment area for patients or visitors that have pacemakers, so that they maintain a safe distance from the SWD when the unit is in use.  

A person can expect to have a short-term increase in range of motion and a short-term decrease in pain and inflammation. With other  treatment procedures, these short-term changes can become long-term changes. There is not a set number of treatments that can be performed with diathermy and as long as a person is seeing benefit, the diathermy can continued to be performed. Most people will experience some type of benefit within six treatments of diathermy and other combined treatment procedures ranging from 15-30 minutes in length.

Please consult the following recommended references for more specifics such as: Dr. Bracciano: Physical Agent Modalities; Dr. Michelle H. Cameron: Physical Agents in Rehabilitation.


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