Short-wave diathermy for spastic equinus foot in chronic stroke patients: a proof-of-concept pilot study

Minerva Med. 2023 Aug;114(4):469-475. doi: 10.23736/S0026-4806.21.07581-9. Epub 2021 Sep 29.


Background: Physical modalities may be useful to manage poststroke spasticity. Shortwave diathermy has been demonstrated to improve extensibility of the myotendinous tissue. Spasticity may alter morphology of the muscle and its elastic properties. Our main aim was to evaluate the effects of shortwave diathermy on spastic equinus foot in stroke patients.

Methods: Ten chronic stroke patients with spastic equinus foot received 10 shortwave diathermy sessions, 5 days/week for 2 consecutive weeks to the spastic calf muscles. Clinical (modified Ashworth Scale and ankle dorsiflexion passive range of motion) and ultrasound (spastic gastrocnemius muscle echo intensity and hardness percentage measured by sonoelastography) evaluation was done before, after treatment, and at two weeks of follow-up.

Results: A significant difference in calf muscle spasticity (P=0.004), ankle passive range of motion (P=0.014), and spastic gastrocnemius muscle hardness percentage (P=0.004) was found after treatment. A significant difference in calf muscle spasticity (P=0.004) was found also at the follow-up evaluation.

Conclusions: Our preliminary findings support the hypothesis that shortwave diathermy might improve calf muscle tone, ankle passive range of motion, and gastrocnemius muscle elasticity in chronic stroke patients with spastic equinus. This might be due to the deep thermal effects coupled with the rheological direct action of shortwave diathermy on spastic muscles.

MeSH terms

  • Diathermy*
  • Humans
  • Muscle Spasticity / drug therapy
  • Muscle Spasticity / therapy
  • Pilot Projects
  • Stroke Rehabilitation*
  • Stroke* / complications
  • Treatment Outcome