Dr. Martin's notes

Wednesday February 08, 2017


Therapeutic diathermy uses a high frequency electrical current to heat the body's tissue. Diathermy will increase the blood flow and tissue metabolism; it also decreases deep muscle spasms. This treatment can be used for chronic sprains and strains, limited ROM, and sub-acute inflammations, such as bursitis, epicondylitis, tendonitis, and arthritis, but it is not used for acute inflammation, hemorrhages, or non-draining infections, or in body areas where moisture, casts, metal implants, or screws are present. Metal and moisture will concentrate the current and may cause burns. Additional areas to avoid include epiphyseal plates, open wounds, and areas with extremely limited circulation, or malignancy. Diathermy should not be used on pregnant women, hemophilia patients, or patients with pacemakers without physician approval.

Properly used, diathermy will heat the tissues to 104-112° F at a depth of about 2 inches from the skin's surface. The treatment time is 20-30 minutes. The patient should feel only the sensation of mild warmth when undergoing diathermy. Any moisture that results from the treatment should be removed with a clean towel as the treatment is being performed.

Diathermy is recognized by the large electrode pads. When applied, care needs to be taken to insulate the athlete being treated by wrapping the electrodes and connecting cords with towels to prevent any shorting of the diathermy circuit.