It is a therapeutic treatment mainly used for joints and musculoskeletal conditions. It uses high frequency electric current to convert energy to deep heat. The short wave diathermy sets up the radio waves with the wavelength of between 30 to 3m. The use of current within this range is classed as short-wave diathermy, but that commonly used for medical purposes has the frequency of 27.12 MHz, and sets up the radio waves with the wavelength of 11m. SWD gives therapeutic effects by both thermal and non-thermal ways. It is mainly used for the relaxation of muscles. It is used in physical therapy to deliver moderate heat directly to lesions in the deeper tissues of the body.


Short wave diathermy is used for

1.Relieving pain

2. Improve mobility

3. increase blood flow

4. Arthritis

5. Backpain

6. Muscle spasm

7. Neuralgia

8. Tendonitis

It is used to treat the pain due to kidney stones and pelvic inflammatory diseases. It is also used for the treatment of the pain due to






There are two methods of application of short wave diathermy:

Capacitive Method

It uses air space plates and pad electrodes. Pad electrodes are malleable and covered with thin layer of rubber.Towels are used to prevent the burns. The electrodes are placed on each side of the part to be treated. The electrodes act as the plates of capacitor while the patient tissue act as “dielectric”. The blood passing the area being treated carries heat away from this area. Vasodilation takes place at that area, to compensate this sweat is produced.

Inductive Method

This method uses cables and drum. Cable electrodes are the bundle of plastic coated wires, the cable may be wrapped around the extremity and coiled flat like a pancake and that can be placed on the skin. When current is produced in the wires the current is also produced the limbs.


The intensity of application should be sufficient that cause the warmth and the treatment time should be 20- 30 minutes. The treatment may be carried out daily, or on alternate days.

For the acute infections, or recent injury the treatment should be less intense but carried out twice daily. The current used may produce mild sensation. The treatment is limited to 5-10 minutes. The dose may increase progressively. The excess treatment should be avoided as it may increase the symptoms.


Relief of pain

Pain is due to the accumulation of waste products that cause inflammation. So, the increase blood flow through the area assist in removing these substances. Short wave diathermy assist in bringing resolution of inflammation, so indirectly relieve the pain. Strong heating may increase the pain, mainly in acute inflammation.

Effects in bacterial infections

Inflammation is the response of the tissue because of the presence of bacteria. This causes the increase in the white blood cells, exudation of fluid, vasodilation in that area. Heating the tissue reinforce the body natural mechanism, so SWD is effective in dealing against bacterial infection. In early stages less dose is required, but progressively dose should increase . The increase blood supply increase healing process.

Traumatic conditions

The beneficial effects of SWD is on traumatic conditions. The exudation of the fluid and increased blood flow assist in removal of waste substances. The increased blood supply may also increases the availability of the nutrition to the affected areas.

Reduce healing time

The increased blood flow in the area due to heating effect promote the healing of wounds. This is due to the nutrient availability to the inflamed area.

Effects on inflammation

The heating causes the dilation of arterioles and capillaries results in increase in the blood flow to the area. This causes the increase in the availability of oxygen and nutrients to the area. The dilation of capillaries cause increase in the exudation of the fluid. SWD is particularly useful in the lesions of deeply placed structures such as hip joint, which cannot be affected by other forms of electrotherapy.


Disorder of Musculoskeletal System
~Sprain (ligaments)
~Strain (Tendons)
~Capsular lesion (Frozen shoulder)
~Degenerative joint disease ( Arthritis)
~Joint stiffness.



Venous thrombosis

The increased flow of blood flow may dislodge the clot and aggravates the inflammation. So, this diathermy is contraindicated to affected vessles ( venous thrombosis).

Arterial disease

Dithermy should not applied to areas which have a destructive arterial blood supply. The inability of the circulation to spread the heat could increase the temperature to a level which could produce burn.


 Diathermic current causes dilatation of blood vessels, so it should not be applied immediately after the injury or where haemorrhage has occurred. It should not be used for conditions in which haemorrhage might occur, as in gastric or intestinal disease associated with ulceration or haemophilia.


It should not be applied to abdomen and pelvis during pregnancy.


SWD should not be applied in the areas of tumors. As, the increase in heat at that area cause increase in the blood circulation and warmth which accelerates the cancer growth.

Sensitive skin

Short wave diathermy should not be applied to the areas where there is loss of sensation, or disturbed sensation.


The dangers of SWD are following:



3. Increase symptoms in acute inflammations

4. Ensure earthing of apparatus to prevent shock

5. Proper connection of machine


Dr. Kashaf Iftikhar

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