How To Apply Heat Therapy
This tension restricts proper circulation and pain signals are sent to the brain. By applying heat to the affected area, you can relieve the pain associated with this while dilating (expanding) the blood vessels. This expansion allows increased blood flow to the affected area which promotes healing by increasing the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the tissue, helping in the healing process.
Heat stimulates sensory receptors in the skin and decreases pain signals to the brain partially relieving discomfort. Applying heat can help facilitate stretching of the soft tissue structures decreasing the stiffness and helping improve range of motion in affected joints.
This truly is one of the best things you can do for yourself. It is easy, relatively low cost and can be done at home while relaxing. Combining heat therapy with treatments from modalities such as Physiotherapy, Chiropractic Care, Massage Therapy and exercise enhances its affect.
There are two main types of heat therapy, Dry and Moist heat. Dry heat can leave you dehydrated as it draws moisture from the skin and is found in some electric heating pads and in saunas. Moist heat is usually preferable as the moisture helps the heat penetrate deeper into the tissues enhancing its effectiveness. One of the best options for heat therapy is moist heat pads as the electric ones can maintain a constant temperature over long periods of time. This is important because typically the longer the treatment and the more consistent the temperature the better the result. The temperature should be “warm” in order to penetrate, heat sources that are too hot tend not to penetrate as well, partially due to the shortened time that they can be applied.
Conditions that should NOT have heat applied
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Peripheral vascular disease
- Open wounds
- Severe cognitive impairments
Conditions Heat Therapy CAN Help
- Low Back Pain
- Muscle Pain
- Delayed onset muscle soreness
- Muscle Spasms
Keegan Marshall CPT, CES