Diathermy; Shortwave therapy; Electrocoagulation; Pain--Treatment; Joints--Range of motion


The purpose of this study was to determine the patterns of use of diathermy by occupational therapists in skilled nursing facilities (SNF) and its purported effectiveness. A survey was completed by 90 occupational therapists (response rate of 36%) who were members of the American Occupational Therapy Association, were listed in the practice area of SNF/long-term care (LTC) facility, and who had experience working in a SNF. Results showed that 54% of the participants had experience using diathermy in SNFs nationwide. The majority of participants with diathermy experience (94%) indicated that they typically implemented diathermy as a preparatory treatment before a functional activity and most participants (80%) administered diathermy for 16 to 30 minutes. The most common objectives when using diathermy were reducing pain (96%) and increasing range of motion (83%). The findings indicated that diathermy was being used for a wide range of diagnoses and symptoms, and that there were discrepancies in how and why occupational therapists administered diathermy in a SNF setting. Although occupational therapists with diathermy experience most frequently (48%) reported “usually” (i.e., 61-80% of the time) seeing a positive effect, many did not know the technicalities of administering diathermy, including the frequency (MHz) used (44%) and how the modality was reimbursed (11%). Additionally, there were conflicting results in diathermy being used for diagnoses and/or symptoms for which it is contraindicated. Due to a lack of research on diathermy use within occupational therapy literature, experimental studies to determine the effectiveness of diathermy would greatly benefit the field of occupational therapy in its effort to be an evidence-based practice.

First Advisor

Kirsten Wibur, MSOT, ORT/L

Second Advisor

Tatiana Kaminsky, PhD, OTR/L

Date of Completion

Spring 2013

Degree Type







Degree Name

Master of Science in Occupational Therapy (MSOT)

Date of Award



Occupational Therapy


University of Puget Sound