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Deep Heat Treatment: Teen Version


What is deep heat treatment?

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.

When is it used?

Deep heat is used to:

  • reduce pain and muscle spasms
  • treat sprains, strains, and tendonitis
  • loosen soft-tissue contractures (shortened tissues that affects your joints)
  • treat chronic arthritis, bursitis, and fractures
  • treat inflammation

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:

  • circulation problems
  • cancer
  • lack of feeling in the area being treated
  • any metal implants such as pacemakers, cochlear implants, bone growth stimulators, nerve stimulators, metal screws or plates, or IUDs that contain metal
  • heart, lung, or kidney disease
  • open wounds

Deep heat treatments are not done on areas above the eye or around the heart, or if you are pregnant.

How does it work?

Deep heat helps the injury to heal by increasing blood flow to the area. The 3 main types of deep heat treatment are:

  • shortwave (radio frequency)
  • microwave
  • ultrasound (high-frequency sound waves)

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.

What are the risks of deep heat treatment?

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.


Developed by RelayHealth.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2011-02-07
Last reviewed: 2010-06-30

This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a health care professional.

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