Deep heat treatment is a therapy that creates heat 2 inches or more below the skin surface into tissues and muscles. Deep heat treatments are used by healthcare providers such as physical therapists, chiropractors, and dentists. Heat therapy can help your body heal and it may also reduce pain.
Deep heat is used to:
Deep heat treatment may be started several days after an injury, when there is less inflammation and swelling.
Deep heat treatments should not be used if you have:
Deep heat treatments are not done on areas above the eye or around the heart, or if you are pregnant.
Deep heat helps the injury to heal by increasing blood flow to the area. The 3 main types of deep heat treatment are:
The shortwaves, microwaves, and sound waves create heat as they go deep into your muscles and other tissues.
Both shortwaves and microwaves use electromagnetic energy. Before you receive this type of treatment, you must remove all metal objects, including jewelry, glasses, and hearing aids. Towels are usually placed in layers between you and the unit. Treatments last about 15 minutes and may be given 2 to 3 times per day for 3 to 14 days.
Ultrasound heat treatments use high-frequency sound waves that cannot be heard by the human ear. Ultrasound heats a smaller area than shortwaves. Muscle tissue, ligaments, and tendons absorb this form of energy very well. Each treatment lasts 5 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of the area being treated.
After heat treatment, you will be checked for any symptoms of dizziness, nausea, or skin irritation.
All heat treatments have the potential of damaging tissue because of the high temperature. During ultrasound therapy, bony areas with little soft tissue (such as the hands, feet, and elbows) can get too hot. This can cause pain and tissue damage. Electromagnetic diathermy may also cause hot spots.
Talk with your provider about whether this type of therapy is right for you.