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What Is a Diathermy Machine?

A diathermy machine is a medical device that uses high-frequency electric currents to generate heat deep inside body tissues, aiding in healing and pain relief. It's a non-invasive treatment often used in physical therapy. Intrigued by how this technology eases discomfort and accelerates recovery? Discover the science behind diathermy and its diverse applications in our comprehensive guide. What will you learn next?
Sandra Koehler
Sandra Koehler

Heat is a therapeutic tool used to relieve pain issues and promote relaxation. It is also a method to promote the biological healing process inside the body. A diathermy machine is a therapeutic device used to deliver heat deeply to specific parts of the body using a high frequency current.

The most common form of heat delivery to the body is through the use of a moist heating pad. This method heats up the skin and increases blood flow to the area. A heating pad can decrease pain and relax tightness in the superficial layers of the skin and muscles. A diathermy machine, on the other hand, can reach beyond the skin and penetrate into the deeper layers of tissues reaching the underlying tendons, ligaments and muscles that may be causing tightness, physical limitations and pain issues. Using heat produced by a high frequency current, a diathermy machine can penetrate anywhere from about 1.2 inches to about 2 inches (three to five centimeters) deeper.

A diathermy machine can reach deep regions of the muscles that cannot be reached by a heating pad.
A diathermy machine can reach deep regions of the muscles that cannot be reached by a heating pad.

There are two different types of diathermy units. A shortwave diathermy utilizes high frequency electric currents which are then converted into heat. A microwave diathermy employs the use of electromagnetic radiation in the form of wavelengths to produce a deep penetrating heat. Both have the ability to induce relaxation, and promote pain relief and healing through increasing the amount of blood flow to the area.

A diathermy machine also demonstrates the ability to apply heat in a specific area whereas a heating pack delivers heat to a general area. This makes diathermy an effective tool for localized areas of pain and tightness. Its penetrating form of heat also allows for the deeper structures to benefit from the therapeutic advantages of heat.

While traditional methods of heat delivery, such as heating packs, can be administered by anyone with the proper precautions, a diathermy unit requires administration by a medical professional. Contraindications or situations where a diathermy unit should not be used include such things as changes in sensations to heat or circulation problems, infection and some medical conditions such as cancer, as it may increase the risk for spreading. Due to its highly specialized delivery of heat, damage in the form of burning of the tissues or underlying structures may occur if diathermy is administered improperly.

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    • A diathermy machine can reach deep regions of the muscles that cannot be reached by a heating pad.
      By: nito
      A diathermy machine can reach deep regions of the muscles that cannot be reached by a heating pad.