Heat therapy means an easy healing solution for you to use in your own home. Did you know that people have been using heat therapy to cure all ailments? This type of treatment can be used on different body parts with varying intensity levels, from joint pain to muscle issues. And did you know, it's inexpensive! Using heating pads and online shopping can help you get precisely what your body needs when it needs it most.
In this article, we will teach you a few ways to use heat therapy at home and keep scrolling to learn how it can help soothe and relieve any pain or ache you might be experiencing.
How Heat Can Help Injuries
Sometimes, when it is needed, heat is applied to your body. Heat causes the blood vessels in your skin and around your muscles to widen, thus increasing blood flow. When this happens, more oxygen flows around and more nutrients, both important for the tissues' integrity. Increased blood flow also has a positive effect on the metabolism of your cells, and those high demands for oxygen and nutrients are met with an appropriate increase in supplies by the rest of your body's systems.
Heat therapy is a great tool to help the body recover from strains and sprains. Heat improves blood flow, allowing for better circulation throughout the body, including your wrists and elbows. This increased blood flow speeds up tissue healing and promotes faster recovery time. As far as your connective tissues go, heat therapy improves their extensibility or flexibility. If you tend to feel pain in your wrists or elbows often, then it may be a wise idea to consider incorporating heat therapy into your routine.
Best Time to Use Heat
While heat can be incredibly beneficial, it should not be used in all instances. Heat is best used when dealing with injuries that affect muscles and soft tissue to increase blood flow and aid in the stretch of those tissues while being careful not to overexert yourself and cause further harm. If you have recently been involved in an injury or accident, using heat for the first two days after the incident may result in worsening your pain rather than easing it through a process known as vasodilation, wherein there is a widening of the blood vessels which could result in increased circulation and swelling which may lead to increased inflammation and worsening of symptoms overall.
Most physical therapists suggest this technique as the first form of assistance they turn to after an initial injury. The best way to do so is by utilizing a cold pack or an ice therapy machine to provide support and relief to your stiff joints more effectively.
- The best time to put heat on a burn that occurred recently is about three days after the injury has already happened. Typically, you have already passed through the inflammatory process and have begun to enter the maturation stage of tissue healing by this time. To make sure that your body is receiving proper treatment, you must use heat in this period. Heat applied at specific points on the body can help improve and expedite the healing process while also reducing pain caused by swelling and inflammation.
- It's a great idea to use heat therapy combined with self-massage. The hot water loosens up muscles before the massage and will allow you to manipulate better and work those tight areas.
Types of Heat Therapy
There are a few different ways to apply heat therapy to your body. The two most common methods include:
Dry heat is generally applied to the body without any moisture, making it ideal for use on a targeted zone of the body, such as applying a heat pack to the elbows in this case. It's also easier to use than moist heat and tends not to burn anyone. However, one drawback to dry heat would be that it can affect your skin adversely if used for too long.
Ways to Apply Dry Heat:
The most common heat sources for applying dry heat are:
- Herbal heating pad
- Heated gel pack
Use your hands. While the hot pack is doing its thing, you can use your hands to feel how warm it has become! How long do I need to apply this treatment? We recommend 20 minutes because it's a perfect length of time but also not too long that you want to take a rest or feel exhausted afterward. You don't want to be feeling like you've just run a marathon after applying heat packs to those sore back muscles after all.
Moist heat uses warm water as the heat source that so many people find provides relief and relaxation. If you prefer to use sweltering heat because it penetrates deeper into your tissues than other forms of heat, then this type of therapy is an excellent option for you. After a challenging workout or training session, this is the best way to manage the effects of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
Ways to Apply Moist Heat:
The easiest ways to apply moist heat include:
- Hot baths
- Hot tub
- Hot water bottle
- Moist heat wraps
In moderate pain, build yourself up to 30 minutes or one hour submerged in a warm bath. The more extended treatment will allow the heat to penetrate your muscles and tissues.
Which Heat is Best?
Not all heat therapy can offer the same degree of comfort and soothing, or even health benefits. I was wondering which kind of heat therapy is better for you? We've got the answers.
- For heat therapy that is quick and easy to apply for a specific area of your body, dry heat may be the best option.
- Moist heat slightly outperformed dry heat in alleviating the pain of sore muscles.
Using Heat with Cold Therapy
As good as heat therapy can be, we're happy to let you know about its polar opposite: cold therapy. Cold therapy is also known as cryotherapy and can apply cold packs, submerge the affected area in an ice bath, or other means. The cold constricts blood vessels, numbs pain, and decreases swelling much more effectively than heat-based treatments like heat wraps or heating pads because it reduces the entire body's temperature by one or two degrees celsius. It is done to accelerate a healing response. Using both methods allows you to benefit from both therapies without having to choose between them!
When to Skip the Heat
Heat is one of the most commonly used treatments for muscles and their various discomforts and torments. Heat provides pain relief from muscle spasms, aches, and injuries because it helps soothe discomfort and allows blood vessel dilatation to bring more blood flow to an affected area. Although heat can be effective in relieving some discomfort for persons suffering from muscle or joint pain, there are times when this treatment should not be used:
- Be aware that people with diabetes or peripheral nerve damage may not react to the heat as readily as others. You could inadvertently burn yourself.
- Have active swelling or edema.
- Have an open sore or skin irritation
Recovering with Heat
Heat therapy is a popular way to ease pain and tension in your muscles. As the name suggests, you can use a heating pad, hot water bottle, or even infrared light to warm up an area of your body that's sore. As with many treatments for muscle and soft tissue injuries, it's essential to speak with your doctor beforehand because everyone is different in heat therapy!