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Diathermy

Reasons to Have One, What to Expect, Associated Risks & More

2 Reasons Why Would You Need a Diathermy Treatment

1. Injuries

Diathermy can help provide pain relief after musculoskeletal injury.[1] Common causes of musculoskeletal injury include automobile accidents or sports injuries. If you suffer a severe injury, diathermy can help increase blood flow to the injured area. Improved blood flow may speed up the healing process. Sprains, strains, and muscle spasms often heal faster after diathermy.[1]

2. Chronic health conditions

Diathermy is also used to treat many chronic health conditions, including:[1]

  • Arthritis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Neuralgia
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Inflammatory disease
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Kidney disease

Diathermy can help relieve pain caused by these chronic conditions. It may also help reduce inflammation and decrease fluid retention. There is some evidence that diathermy can also make connective tissues more flexible.[1] If your illness causes ongoing damage to your body, diathermy may even slow down the disease's progression.

Understanding Diathermy

Diathermy uses high-frequency electric currents to generate heat within your body. This heat can help increase blood flow, relieve pain, and promote healing.

There are three main types of diathermy:

  • Shortwave diathermy, which helps treat chronic pain and muscle spasms. To do so, it is applied in short pulses or continuous waves. Your doctor may suggest shortwave diathermy if you have muscle strains or sprains. Shortwave diathermy can also help with bursitis, kidney stones, or pelvic inflammatory disease.[1]
  • Microwave diathermy, which warms the tissues beneath your skin without heating the skin's surface. This type of diathermy can't penetrate into deep muscles or organ tissue, but it can relieve pain and encourage healing in muscles that are closer to the surface.[1]
  • Ultrasound diathermy, which treats deep tissues and muscles. This treatment uses sound waves to trigger vibrations that generate heat. Ultrasound diathermy may promote blood flow and treat a variety of musculoskeletal conditions. It can also address some joint issues.[1]

Diathermy is often used as part of a broader treatment strategy. Your doctor may suggest using diathermy alongside physical therapy or other rehabilitative treatments. Diathermy can make these treatments more effective. Using multiple methods of treatment may help your body heal faster after an injury.

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Risks of Diathermy

Diathermy isn't always safe for patients with implanted medical devices, such as pacemakers.[1] Diathermy can sometimes interfere with the function of these devices.

People with metal devices in their body should not receive diathermy in those areas. These metal devices can include bone pins, dental fillings, IUDs, or metal sutures.[1] Diathermy stimulates heat around these areas and may cause burns or shocks.

Diathermy can also be dangerous if you have vascular disease or a bleeding disorder. People who have serious infections, broken bones, or cancer should also avoid diathermy.[1] Most pregnant women and growing children should not receive diathermy. Your OB/GYN or pediatrician can provide more information about possible risks.

Diathermy treatments should avoid the eyes, brain, heart, spinal cord, or reproductive organs.[1] For safety, most diathermy treatments are restricted to muscle tissues.

What to Expect with Diathermy

Before undergoing diathermy, your doctor or nurse will have you remove any clothing or accessories that contain metal. This includes all jewelry, piercings, and clothing with zippers or metal buttons.[1] In some cases, your medical provider may ask you to remove all your clothes. You may receive a gown or goggles to wear during your treatment.

Depending on which area of your body is being targeted, you might sit on a chair or lie down on a table. Your provider might also attach electrodes to the affected area.[2] If you're undergoing ultrasound diathermy, your provider will apply a special gel to your skin. Electrodes are not used during ultrasound diathermy. Instead, your provider moves an ultrasound wand over the affected area.[1]

Some people report feeling a sensation of warmth or tingling during treatment. Treatment should not be painful.[2] If you feel any discomfort, notify your provider immediately.

After treatment, most people experience less pain and improved flexibility, but you may need to continue physical therapy or other treatments to help your body heal. Ask your doctor what kind of follow-up care you will need after diathermy.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Diathermy

  • What type of diathermy do you recommend?
  • Where will I receive my treatment?
  • Who will administer my treatment?
  • Will I need to remove my clothing?
  • Will my implanted medical devices or piercings present a problem?
  • What can I expect after diathermy? What side effects might I experience?
  • Will I need to undergo physical therapy or other follow-up treatments?

References:

2 Sources

Solv has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.