What Is Diathermy & What Are Its Benefits?

Guest Post By: Steven Hawk

Diathermy is a therapeutic application of shortwave or microwave electromagnetic energy that produces heat and other physiological changes within your tissues. Diathermy has been used for musculoskeletal conditions and known to reduce potential effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy for cancer patients.

In contrast with traditional heat therapy methods, diathermy products use a special induction coil to convert electromagnetic waves into energy that becomes heat via friction within our deep tissues.

The good thing about diathermy is that the skin does not have to be heated excessively to transfer a heat energy because heat is being created in the muscle via molecular motion caused by the electromagnetic waves. These diathermy radiations can also provide a continuous source of heat over the duration of the treatment and can be worn while being physically active.

There are three main types of diathermy: Shortwave Diathermy, Microwave Diathermy, and Ultrasound Diathermy. These kinds of diathermy have significant roles in treating musculoskeletal conditions such as sports injuries.

Ultrasound Diathermy

Ultrasound Diathermy delivers medication to selected tissues through controlling inflammation and by improving collagen elasticity. Through the help of a quartz crystal, heat is produced as a result of the conversion of electrical current into ultrasound energy and subsequently converted into heat.

This type of diathermy is usually used in the treatment of contractures, chronic degenerative osteoarthritis, decreased range of motion, and subacute trauma. It is also commonly applied as a complementary method to stretching exercises preceding any aggressive joint manipulation.

Shortwave Diathermy

This is an alternative application of ultrasound for alleviating muscle and/or joint contractures, sprain, and muscle spasm through the use of both thermal and nonthermal mechanisms. In shortwave diathermy, electromagnetic radio waves are utilized in order to convert energy to deep heat. The physician can usually target the affected tissue he/she wants to heat by changing the characteristics of the shortwave applicator.

In practice, shortwave diathermy is most recommended to treat painful conditions and other pathological processes where their bacteria may be hidden in more superficial tissues.

Microwave Diathermy

Microwave diathermy warms affected tissues without heating the skin. In this kind of diathermy, electromagnetic radiation through microwaves is used to generate heat in the body. This method has been employed to reduce the possible adverse effects of radiation treatment and cancer chemotherapy.

What are the benefits of diathermy?

The value of diathermy is that it directly heats deep tissue in the muscles. Unlike other methods, such as moist hot packs that target superficial tissues via indirect contact which causes them to lose their heat capacity over time. Modalities that heat via direct contact require high temperatures in order for a thermal exchange of heat to deeper tissues.

Deep heating increases blood flow and helps lubricate joints through the exchange of fluids and nutrients. The reason why heat packs are less effective are because when there isn’t not enough heat transfer, there will be little impact. But at the same time, if there is too much heat transfer, skin damage is highly likely such as blisters and burns.


We can only achieve and maximize the value of diathermy by unlocking its full potential. The combination of deep heat therapy along with appropriate stretching exercises surely offers a chance for this change as it promises faster restoration of quality of life for most patients with musculoskeletal conditions.

Posted by DME Library

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