Short Wave Diathermy (SWD) – Benefits, Risks, And Side Effects

In this technological revolution, inventors have been trying restlessly to replace our pain and adversity with innovation and continuous development. As one of the most useful medical technologies, Diathermy is such an example of a revolution in modern medical technology. It was invented to increase blood circulation inside our bodies and relieve pain. Physiotherapists and chiropractors have been using this as therapeutic treatment for many years. Mostly, they use it to treat chronic muscle and joint diseases.

Diathermy is being used as a therapeutic modality that is most effective in physical therapy. Here “Dia” means through and “thermy” means heat, and Diathermy means “through heat”. Diathermy is being used as a deep heat agent that comes with multiple versions, short waves, long-wave microwaves, and ultrasounds. Among them, Short Wave Diathermy (SWD) is more common in therapeutic treatment. And that is helpful for kidney patients, pelvic infection, joint pain, and more. For treating damaged tissue, relaxing the muscle, treating rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, this therapeutic modality is being used around the world. It stimulates tissues by both continuous and pulse modes. Here we are going to discuss Short Wave Diathermy.

What is Short Wave Diathermy?

Short-wave diathermy is a renowned and effective modality to reduce pain, swelling, and discomfort, or other joint conditions. This treatment is the most common and typically used by the physiotherapist using high-frequency electric current via short waves. It produces heat from sound and electricity by converting processes. The heat is produced at around 27.2 MHz. It heats tissues deeply around 2 to 3 cm. In that case, the therapist decides how much temperature is required to generate within the target tissue. SWD is the most effective treatment to reduce swelling, relieve pain, reduce inflammation, increase joint movement, and increase tissue extensibility. The electric pulse creates heat and targets the tissues deeply so that the patients can gently improve their flexibility in stiff joints and connective tissues. For the targeted heat, blood flow can improve and decrease pain and inflammation.

Experts don’t use it for rehabilitation only. They also use it during surgical procedures to cauterize the blood vessels. Some surgeons use SWD to remove tumors where they fail in conventional ways. They use SWD to resolve issues in the eyes, prostate, bladder, tonsils, cervix, ovaries, and bowels.

How Does Shortwave Diathermy Work?

The distinguished form of diathermy is the short wave diathermy. It sends high-frequency waves inside the human body and lets the wave reach the affected tissues. The conventional machines of shortwave diathermy work at 27.33 megahertz that have wavelengths of 11 meters. Like other wavelengths, SWD works in two different modes.

  • Continuous Mode: When the physiotherapist uses continuous mode, the waves continuously convey energy and create heat in the target tissues area. If the physiotherapists find the affected area worse and need more heat then they opt for continuous mode.
  • Pulsed Mode: For comparatively minor issues, physiotherapists opt for pulse mode. The good part of this mode is that it helps to increase flexibility and mobilization in the joints.

When applied to the patient’s body, the wavelength creates heat from within the affected area and stimulates blood circulation that helps to relieve pain and improve physical conditions. Immediately the cells get accelerated in the growing process, and damaged cells get rejuvenated. That’s how we experience the healing progress in the wounded area.

See More: K-Laser Therapy: Benefits, Side Effects, And Cost

Which Conditions Are Indications For Use of Short Wave Diathermy?

Short wave diathermy is advised and effective for some specific conditions to treat successfully. Those are:

  • Back pain
  • Bone injuries
  • arthritis
  • tendonitis, bursitis and myositis
  • Muscle spasms
  • Sprains and strains 
  • Neuralgia
  • Fibromyalgia
  • tenosynovitis

Therapeutic Effect of Short Wave Diathermy

Short wave diathermy is widely used for its great therapeutic effectiveness and wide range of benefits. Some of the common therapeutic effects of SWD are:

  • Effect on inflammation and bacterial infections: The arterioles and capillaries dilatation boost the blood flows in the affected area and restore the oxygen supply. The increased flow of the nutritional elements and antibodies with white blood cells improves the tissues with enough fluid. This process removes the waste particles and cures the inflammations. Heating the tissues affected with bacteria results in the body deal with the infected organs.
  • Pain relief: The sedative effect from the electromagnetic thrust is great for relieving pain.
  • Fast Healing: The instant heat increases the blood flow immediately and assists the tissues to heal in a shorter duration.
  • Trauma: The heating effect creates from the electromagnetic thrust works to exudate the affected fluid from the damaged vessels. This process improves the joint conditions.

Frequencies Used in Short Wave Diathermy

Short wave diathermy is the most used process for maximum effectiveness. This machine uses high-frequency electromagnetic energy to generate heat and stimulate circulation around the affected tissue areas. The 3 specific frequencies experts use in short wave diathermy are:

  1. 13.56 MHz, Wavelength is 22 m.
  2. 27.12 MHz, Wavelength is 11 m.
  3. 40.68 MHz, Wavelength is 11m.

These frequencies are applied according to the requirement and severity of the condition of the patients. The conditions also let physiotherapists decide whether he or she will go for continuous mode or pulsed mode.

Risks of Short Wave Diathermy

Shortwave diathermy has some more common risk factors. The very first issue is burning the area of the patient. If it is placed for too long without any movement, it creates excessive heat and burns the area. Some additional factors can burn such as defective machines, incorrect positions and lack of supervision, etc. Any type of metal implant, even a single tiny pin can be risky. Because metal more often heats up and burns the area badly. The treatment should not be used on the area of bone pins, pacemakers, dental filling, and metal sutures because that could burn the area.

Children must have an open growth plate that is also not suitable for the treatment. Even a fractured or injured area is more vulnerable with this treatment. Diathermy should be avoided for pregnant women or patients having tumors. The treatment is placed with an electrical field, people should be more conscious while proceeding with diathermy. 

Contraindications of Short Wave Diathermy

In general, shortwave diathermy has some contraindication due to excessive thermal mechanisms. Here are some factors we should put more attention to while running treatment. The physiotherapist should be more conscious to avoid contraindication to treatment.

  • Excessive diathermic current causes dilation of blood vessels. That may lead to worse situations especially after hemorrhage conditions or other injuries. In that case, diathermy is not to be applied on the pelvis area during menstruation, gastric, or ulceration, or any other injury. 
  • Sometimes, the application of shortwave diathermy affects vessels and increases more blood flow that can aggravate the inflammation. 
  • Diathermy does not apply to the area including defective arterial blood supply, because this situation may interfere with the heat and the result is excessive heat may burn the tissue. 
  • The Diathermy does not apply to the pelvic area during pregnancy. 
  • The area where there is no skin sensation should be avoided. 
  • Short wave diathermy should not be applied in the region of malignant growth. Using this treatment may increase the temperature and as a result, can speed up the rate of growth. 
  • If the area was recently exposed, a therapeutic X-ray should be avoided. 
  • If the patient is not able to indicate heating requirements, especially mentally defective people or children are not allowed to take this treatment. Even some patients who have a chance to lose consciousness, like epileptics should avoid this type of treatment. 
  • If the metal implant is present during the treatment, it may create contraindication.

What are the Precautions To Be Taken While Using a Short Wave Diathermy Machine?

It is highly recommended to apply this treatment safely; otherwise, any accidental case can happen. Some rules need to be followed during treatment. In general, the basic rule is “no water, no metal”. Besides this basic rule, there are some other sophisticated factors that you must avoid. In that case, the physiotherapists must be aware and careful to maintain some basic precautions while taking this treatment.

  • Check the connection of the machine, if the machine works properly or not.
  • Ensure there is no earthing of the machine.
  • Not over cloth is allowed
  • Never apply on the wet area.
  • Before applying, check the thermal sensitivity.
  • Ensure that the heat is appropriate for the patient.
  • The patient should remove any kind of metals and jewelry
  • Consider a good position of the patient
  • After setting, wait for few minutes to apply
  • A towel is needed on the treatment area to absorb moisturizer 
  • Avoid excessive heating that may burn the area
  • Using a nonconductive treatment table, especially a wood table is necessary to accomplish the process.
  • Furthermore, surgical implants should never be exposed
  • Fluid fill cavities, moist skin, and edematous tissue should be avoided
  • Physiotherapists should keep a distance from the machine minimum of 1 meter