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Shortwave Diathermy. Chapter 9. Description. High-frequency electrical currents Radio waves Pass through the tissues Cause molecular vibration Results in deep heating Capable of heating large volumes of tissues Causes both thermal and nonthermal effects. Thermal Effects Deep heat

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Shortwave Diathermy

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  • High-frequency electrical currents
    • Radio waves
  • Pass through the tissues
  • Cause molecular vibration
  • Results in deep heating
  • Capable of heating large volumes of tissues
  • Causes both thermal and nonthermal effects
Thermal Effects

Deep heat

Increased blood flow

Increased cell metabolism

Increased tissue extensibility

Muscular relaxation

Possible changes in enzyme reactions

Nonthermal Effects

Edema reduction

Lymphedema reduction

Superficial wound healing

Treatment of venous stasis ulcers

types of shortwave diathermy

Types of Shortwave Diathermy

Induction Field

Capacitive Field

induction field diathermy
Induction Field Diathermy
  • Places the patient in the electromagnetic field
  • Selectively heats muscle
  • Also referred to as:
    • Condenser field diathermy
    • Magnetic field diathermy
induction field diathermy cont
Induction Field Diathermy (Cont.)
  • A coil is housed within a drum
  • Current flowing within the coil produces a rotating magnetic field
  • Magnetic field produces eddy currents in the tissues
  • Eddy currents cause friction that produce heat
  • Although rare, cables are sometimes used in place of drums
capacitive field diathermy
Capacitive Field Diathermy
  • Uses the patient’s tissues as a part of the circuit
  • The tissues’ electrical resistance produces heat
  • Selectively heats skin
    • Muscle is heated via conduction from the adipose
  • Also referred to as “condenser field diathermy”
capacitive field diathermy cont
Capacitive Field Diathermy (Cont.)
  • Heat is produced by the dipole effect
  • Charge particles within membrane align with the field
  • The movement produces heat












modes of application
Modes of Application


  • Increases tissue temperature
  • Increased risk of burns


  • May or may not increase temperature
  • Pulses allow for increased treatment intensity and duration
  • Not the same as “nonthermal”
ultrasound swd comparison
Ultrasound & SWD Comparison

UltrasoundShortwave Diathermy

Energy type Acoustical Electromagnetic

Tissue heated Collage-rich C: Skin, adipose tissue

I: Muscle, vessels

Tissue volume Small (20 cm2) Large (200 cm2)

Temp increase 1 MHz: > 6.3°F C: > 7°F

3 MHz: > 14.9°F I: > 18°F

Heat retention 3 min > 9 min

C = Capacitive method

I = Induction method

biophysical effects
Biophysical Effects


  • Assists in removal of cellular debris and toxins
  • Nonthermal:
    • Alters diffusion rate across the cell membrane
  • Thermal
    • Increases intramuscular metabolism
biophysical effects12
Biophysical Effects

Blood and Fluid Dynamics

  • Vasodilation increases:
    • Blood flow
    • Capillary filtration
    • Capillary pressure
    • Oxygen perfusion
  • Increased fibroblastic activity and capillary growth
  • Effects occur deeper than other forms of heat
biophysical effects13
Biophysical Effects

Tissue Elasticity

  • SWD can vigorously heat deep tissues
  • Alters collagen properties, allowing it to elongate
  • Requires stretching during and/or immediately following the treatment
  • Multiple treatments are required
biophysical effects14
Biophysical Effects

Wound Healing

  • Nonthermal SWD increases rate of phagocytosis
  • Number of mature collage bundles increase
  • ATP activity increases (assisting wound regeneration)
  • Necrosed muscle fibers decrease
Metal implants or metal jewelry (be aware of body piercings)

Cardiac pacemakers

Ischemic areas

Peripheral vascular disease

Perspiration and moist dressings: The water collects and concentrates the heat.

Tendency to hemorrhage, including menstruation.



Sensory loss


Areas of particular sensitivity:

Epiphyseal plates in children

The genitals

Sites of infection

The abdomen with an implanted intrauterine device (IUD)

The eyes and face

Application through the skull