Diathermy is another deep heat treatment. An electrode drum is used to apply heat to an affected area. It consists of a wire coil surrounded by dead space and other insulators such as a plastic housing. Plenty of toweling must be layered between the unit and the patient. This device is unique in that it utilizes the basis of a magnetic field on connective tissues. One advantage of diathermy over various other heat treatments is that fat does resist an electrical field, which is not the case with a magnetic field. It is found to be helpful with those experiencing chronic low back pain and muscle spasms. Prior to ultrasound technology, diathermy was a popular heat therapy of the 1940s–1960s.
Before administering any form of heat treatment, heat sensitivity is accessed and the skin over the affected area is cleansed. When a patient is undergoing any form of heat treatment, supervision should always be present especially in the treatment of hydrotherapy.
Once the heat treatment has been completed, any symptoms of dizziness and nausea should be noted and documented along with any skin irritations or discoloring not present prior to the heat treatment. A one hour interval between treatments should be adhered to in order to avoid restriction of blood flow.
All heat treatments have the potential of tissue damage resulting from excessive temperatures. Proper insulation and treatment duration should be carefully administered for each method. Overexposure during a superficial heat treatment may result in redness, blisters, burns, or reduced blood circulation. During ultrasound therapy, excessive treatment over bony areas with little soft tissue (such as hand, feet, and elbow) can cause excessive heat resulting in pain and possible tissue damage. Exposure to the electrode drum during diathermy may produce hot spots.
Jeffrey P. Larson RPT, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,