Cooking my knee will fix it? Why a diathermy machine is my new best friend

As my patella femoral joint pain continues my physiotherapist starts getting desperate. Let’s call him Bob.

According to Bob it shouldn’t hurt this much – however the swelling and clicking when he manipulates that leg speak for themselves, as do my frantic squeaking noises when it all gets too much.

So Bob pulled out the big guns – or at least the machine that looks like 1940 Soviet-era space technology, a diathermy machine.


Basically a diathermy machine uses high-frequency electromagnetic currents to electrically induced heat, with this heat then relaxing the muscles and attempting to reduce the under knee pain.

It can do other things too, for example it can coagulate bleeding vessels and cut through tissue! This is called electrosurgery or electrocautery. Apparently Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) use these functions.

My physio, ‘Bob’, was telling me that about 40 years ago when this technology was being fine-tuned there were instances where people had body parts effectively cooked – as it wasn’t understood at the time that too much heat was bad. He says that now this isn’t a problem.


I do hope that Bob is correct it now being safe, I rather hope that he is wrong about people being cooked!

The internet tells me that there have been reported instances of flash fires in operating theatres – something to do with the combination of heat, chemical flash points and lots of oxygen from the anaesthetic equipment.

So far I haven’t been cooked, set fire to or even felt that much heat from the machine. It has however reduced some of a swelling and pain – for a day or so, which makes this machine almost worth a £1 per minute I am paying!

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One thought on “Cooking my knee will fix it? Why a diathermy machine is my new best friend

  1. Fascinating. 5 years in hospital theatres in Australia and I never saw an eledtrocautery device. It’s all they used in the hospital I worked at here in the US.

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