There are times when heat or ice can help reduce pain and encourage healing during the body's recovery process from muscle pain or soreness. For example, suppose one is considering using a heating pad for pain relief. In that case, there are many health and safety considerations to ensure they aren't making the injury worse, prolonging recovery, or introducing other bodily injury risks into the equation. Below are answers to six commonly asked questions about heat application to treat muscle soreness.
What Conditions Respond to Heating Pads?
The utilization of heat and cold therapy pack can prove beneficial in alleviating pain, swelling, and inflammation. Therefore, it is common for medical professionals to suggest a combination of both methods for optimal relief. Heating pads can relax tissues and enhance blood circulation in the targeted region, ultimately reducing pain and fluid accumulation.
Applying heating pads can be a highly beneficial method for reducing pain and stiffness in joint conditions, such as arthritis, due to heat therapy's relaxing and anti-inflammatory effects. Additionally, heat therapy can help alleviate muscle tightness and reduce painful spasms. Individuals with sciatica may find heat therapy an effective follow-up treatment to cold therapy, as it can relieve symptoms.
How does a heating pad work to help with sore muscles?
Often after people exercise, lactic acid buildup occurs in the tiny blood vessels in your damaged muscles, causing them to spasm and feel painfully sore. Not only does this make it more difficult for your muscles to recover, but it also hampers circulation - as a result, you don't get the proper amount of oxygen and nutrients going to the part of your body experiencing muscle pain! Heat applications like heated pads or a hot bath are useful in relieving that pain because they help increase blood flow and relax those tight muscles, allowing the blood to flow into the muscles again and flush out waste products that have built up.
Heat also helps loosen muscles. When you begin to exercise, your body starts to get warm. Your body then tries to cool itself off by sweating. This process can make your muscles tighten rather than relax, canceling any potential loosening that may have been afoot. By applying heat before the workout, you are essentially "tricking" your body into thinking it is already warm and thus getting a head start."
Researchers can apply their knowledge and discoveries to understand pain better as we discover how humans experience and process sensory information. The gate theory addresses how a person's brain interprets a specific sensation that originates from somewhere in the body. For example, pain nerves relay information about your back into your spinal cord through the dorsal root ganglia when you have back pain.
The brain is then alerted to a problem with your back muscles, causing it to release chemicals like serotonin and norepinephrine. These substances control other neurotransmitters' levels to regulate better pain signals sent by the central nervous system.
Suppose we are experiencing terrible muscle aches after a rigorous hike or HIIT workout. In that case, those muscles activate their pain receptors and work full-time to send constant pain signals back to the brain. When we apply heat to the hurt area, we activate different nerves to transmit this new, non-painful message to the brain, whose message can deaden or lessen the underlying nerve pain messages.
Is it Bad to Use Heating Pads every day?
The heating pad is a commonly found household item. However, have you ever thought to yourself whether using a heating pad every day could be bad or can cause any harmful effects?
The answer to this question is straightforward and easily understandable. With frequent use of anything in your daily routine, it is likely to develop into habitual behavior. First, however, it is important to distinguish between the concepts of habit and addiction. Habit formation precedes addiction, and it is crucial to identify and recognize the signs of addictive behavior to address it effectively.
It is a common misconception for individuals to conflate their habits with addictions. Similarly, consistent use of heating pads can potentially lead to addiction, and nobody can stop you from that. In addition, many older adults experience issues with their bones and joints in different parts of their body, which can result in painful nights and sleep deprivation.
Heating pads are the only popular method for quick and easy pain relief. However, it has been observed that some individuals develop excessive reliance on heating pads. This addiction can result in the inability to obtain adequate rest or comfort without heating pads. This is particularly common among older individuals who have become accustomed to relying on this method of pain relief and cannot get enough sleep or comfort in their daily lives.
Is it ever ok to fall asleep while using a heating pad?
Using a microwaveable heating pad while sleeping should be something other than your go-to sleep solution. While it can be effective under the right conditions, there are better ways to get the relief you need at night.
Falling asleep while using a heating pad should always be avoided - it can cause severe problems to your body if you aren't paying attention. Whether it's heat or ice, falling asleep on the skin is unnecessary as both can cause severe disfiguring burns. During sleep, the body undergoes a natural process of recovering. The best way to achieve that is by letting the natural recovery do its job completely and not adding any additional risk by applying heat or ice to an already damaged area. In situations where freezing temperatures are a concern and additional heat is necessary, it is recommended that a cloth or towel be placed over the heating pad. This will provide a protective barrier between the pad and the skin, ensuring safe and effective use.
How long is best when applying a heating pad to any body area?
Herbal Heating pads may have a specific time frame for their use, but there are many critical factors to consider regarding their time usage. First, the pad must be used at the appropriate time because it can cause injury and pain if overheated or not used correctly. Also, depending on your reasons for using a heating pad, being too focused on a specific outcome might blind you from proper usage, preventing you from achieving your desired effects!
Though technical specifications for heating pads are not readily available, it is good to note that pain relief should continue for up to 30 minutes. Leaving a heating pad on for too long can result in the skin's swelling and redness, which indicates the presence of burn-related injuries from prolonged use!
Although heating pads can aid in the recovery of muscle injuries, they must be handled with great care and caution. It is important to avoid falling asleep while using them and to limit their use to avoid overheating any specific body area. It is important for safety reasons to consider these precautions before using any pad that heats intending to relieve pain. Use of the heating pad can be a helpful tool for muscle pain relief, but more so if the following steps are taken:
- Don't sleep while lying on it (which has somehow become some people's favorite pastime).
- Avoid leaving it on an injured area longer than your doctor or fitness expert advises.
How Should You Choose a Heating Pad?
Selecting a suitable heating pad is contingent upon the specific health issue or symptoms you experience. For instance, if you tend to experience dry skin, a non-electric heating pad may be preferable to an electric one. This is because electric heating pads emit dry heat that can exacerbate skin dehydration and irritate sensitive skin.
Consider the utility aspect when choosing a heating pad. For example, if you require a heating pad that can keep your muscles warm and flexible while on the move, then opt for a flaxseed & Cherry pit heating pad that can be placed inside your clothing.