Heat therapy is an easy healing solution for you in your home. Heat therapy involves the application of a heat-causing agent to the body. For example, heat may be applied to the tissues directly by a heat pack.
Did you know people have been using heat therapy to cure all ailments? This 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 and nutrients flow around, both important for the tissues' integrity. Increased blood flow also positively affects 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 therapeutic approach that involves the targeted application of heat to the body. Heat can be delivered directly to the tissues through heat packs. However, it is important to note that other variations of electrotherapy may also cause tissue heating.
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 wrists and elbows. This increased blood flow speeds up tissue healing and promotes faster recovery time. Regarding your connective tissues, heat therapy improves their extensibility or flexibility. Consider incorporating heat therapy into your routine if you often feel pain in your wrists or elbows.
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 recent burn is three days after the injury. Typically, you have already passed through the inflammatory process and have begun to enter the maturation stage of tissue healing by this time. Therefore, you must use heat during this period to ensure your body receives proper treatment. In addition, 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, allowing 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, such as applying a heat pack to the elbows. It's also easier to use than moist heat and tends not to burn anyone. However, one drawback to dry heat is that it can adversely affect your skin 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 rest or feel exhausted afterward. You don't want to feel like you've just run a marathon after applying heat packs to those sore back muscles.
Moist heat uses warm water as the heat source that many people find provides relief and relaxation. If you prefer sweltering heat because it penetrates deeper into your tissues than other forms of heat, then this type of therapy is an excellent option. 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 water bottle
- Hot baths
- Hot tub
- Moist heat wraps.
In moderate pain, submerge yourself in a warm bath for 30 minutes or one hour. The 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. So 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 tell you about its polar opposite: cold therapy. Cold therapy, also known as cryotherapy, can apply cold therapy packs, submerging 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. Both methods allow you to benefit from both therapies without choosing between them!
When to Skip the Heat
Heat is one of the most commonly used treatments for muscles and their 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 effectively relieve some discomfort for persons suffering from muscle or joint pain, there are times when this treatment should not be used:
- People with diabetes or peripheral nerve damage may not react to the heat as readily as others. As a result, 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 muscle pain and tension. As the name suggests, you can use a heating pad or hot water bottle to warm up a sore area of your body. As with many treatments for muscle and soft tissue injuries, speaking with your doctor beforehand is essential because everyone is different in heat therapy!
Are there any disadvantages?
When applying heat to the body, it's crucial to exercise caution. Overheating the tissues can result in burns or tissue damage, so avoiding this is important. Never place a heat pack directly on your body; instead, place it on the affected area. Heat therapy should be avoided for the first 48-72 hours following an injury as it can worsen swelling and symptoms. Individuals with altered sensations should avoid heat therapy, and there are other conditions where it may not be advisable. If you need more clarification, seek guidance from your doctor or treating therapist.