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The treatment of disease by heat of any kind; involves the local or general application of heat to the body.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the physiotherapeutic methods that use heat from natural and artificial sources. In the household, hot water bottles, electric heating pads, poultices and hot compresses, heated sand, and other devices are used.

In medical institutions, thermotherapy is administered by means of incandescent lamps, such as Minin or infrared lamps, or by the application of mud, paraffin, or ozokerite. Inductothermy, high-frequency electric fields, and microwaves are used for intensified heating of body tissues. The use of natural heat carriers produces chemical and mechanical effects in addition to the temperature effect caused by large heat capacity, low heat conductivity, and absence of convection. The chemical effects are due to the presence of inorganic and organic acids in therapeutic mud, biologically active substances in mud and ozokerite, and mineral oils in paraffin. An example of a mechanical effect is the compression effect of paraffin application.

The mechanism of action of thermotherapy is complex; it is composed of local (focal) and general reactions. The former are manifested mainly in improvement of blood and lymph circulation and in neurotrophic processes, which results in antiinflammatory, analgesic, and resorptive effects. General reactions are due to reflex and humoral influences on the nervous, cardiovascular, endocrine, immune, and other systems, which ensure self-regulation of the body. An optimum reaction is produced in the absence of extreme thermal loads on the body and when the changes produced at the cellular, subcellular, and molecular levels by thermotherapy have not been obscured by the consequences of heating the tissues.

Thermotherapy is used to combat certain diseases of the musculoskeletal system, the peripheral nervous system, the ear, nose, and throat, and the urogenital system; in addition, it is used in cases of traumas and adhesions in the abdominal cavity and the pelvis. It is contraindicated in cases of malignant and benign tumors, active forms of tuberculosis, blood diseases, diseases of the cardiovascular system with decompensation of blood circulation, and acute inflammatory processes.


Olefirenko, V. T. Vodoteplolechenie. Moscow, 1970.
Redford, J. B. “Physical Medicine, Principles of Thermotherapy.” Northwest Medicine, 1960, vol. 59, pp. 919–24.
Fizykoterapia ogólna i kliniczna, 2nd ed. Edited by J. Jankowiak. Warsaw, 1968.
In veterinary medicine, thermotherapy in the form of compresses, poultices, showers, baths, electric heating pads, phototherapy, pelotherapy, diathermy, and other methods is used to treat colic, pneumonia, mastitis, and surgical problems such as contusions or sprained tendons and ligaments.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.