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What Are the Different Types of Diathermy Treatment?

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  • Written By: Rebecca Harkin
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 18 September 2014
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The three types of diathermy treatments include ultrasound, shortwave, and microwave. Diathermy treatment is a form of physical therapy that targets damaged tissue with heat to relax the tight tissue, increase blood flow, and reduce swelling. This form of thermal therapy is typically used to treat muscle spasms or tension, stiff joints, and muscle and joint pain.

Ultrasonic diathermy treatment employs high-frequency sound waves to generate heat deep within the damaged tissue. During the therapy, the afflicted area is covered with a special conducting gel, and then a baton that emits the ultrasonic waves is rubbed over the area. A treatment session usually takes from five to ten minutes. The patient will feel a warm tingling feeling during the session but will not endure any pain.

Shortwave diathermy treatment uses high-frequency electric current to produce deep tissue heat. This form of diathermy is able to warm large areas of tissue and is best used to treat large muscle problems. Shortwave diathermy treatment usually takes about 20 minutes.

There are two ways to apply shortwave diathermy, the condenser method and the inductive coil method. The condenser method involves securing two electrodes to the patient so that the damaged tissue is positioned between the electrodes. Current is then passed between the electrodes, warming the underlying tissue. The inductive coil method warms the damaged tissue using eddy currents that are produced by an electric coil. The therapy is applied to the skin through a wand.

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Microwave diathermy treatments target highly focused electromagnetic radiation, emitted from a wand, at the damaged area. This form of diathermy is best used for more localized injuries or small muscles. Microwave treatments last about 20 to 30 minutes.

A diathermy treatment is often used to treat sports injuries such as tendonitis or sprains that exhibit symptoms of muscle tension, pain, or spasms. This type of remedy may also be used to treat rigid joints and joint pain often associated with arthritis and bursitis. Thermal therapy helps to heal these problems by increasing blood flow to the injured area, controlling swelling and softening joint tissue. This treatment may also accelerate the healing of an injured area.

Thermal therapy should not be used by a patient who has a pacemaker or a device implanted in the head to stimulate the brain. This form of treatment should also not be used if the patient has a malignancy or bone fracture near the area to receive the therapy. Pregnant women should also not use ultrasonic heat therapy.

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