4 Important Benefits of Heat Therapy

Athletes often suffer from pulled muscles, cramping, and soreness in their bodies. How often have you woken up with a cramp in your hamstring or a sore neck? That makes us athletes, right? We can do it in our sleep. 

On a more serious note, muscle pain is a serious issue, and it afflicts all people, from the athlete to the humble couch potato. There are solutions out there. We can load our bodies up with painkillers, inject chemicals, subject them to more pain, or we can go down a different route. Heat therapy can ease and relieve muscle pain. Is heat therapy the solution for you?

1. Muscle Spasms

Do your muscles twitch and spasm? Have you twisted your head to see a cute dog with its head out of a car window, and your neck twitched? Have you lifted a really cool, but heavy rock, and felt a spasm in your back? Heat can help. There are a variety of options available, from neck pillows to shoulder wraps. Heat will help to relax and soothe your muscles (1). Throw out the meds, but gently! You do not want to spasm.

2. Stiffness

You wake from a long night of sleep or a short power nap, and you are stiff. You have trouble moving your back, shoulders, and neck. You let out groan as you stand up. You need some heat therapy. Heat can help to relieve any muscle stiffness you have. Heat pads are wonderfully convenient. They are heated in the microwave and placed on the affected area. Your mobility will be increased, allowing you to gently stretch as your muscles are warmed.

RELATED: 5 Best Neck and Shoulder Massagers 

3. Blood Flow

Heat can help to increase the flow of blood around your body (2). Increased blood flow can help injuries to heal faster. Applying a heat pad or pillow to an affected area, such as a pulled neck muscle, can help to relax the muscle, increase the blood flow, and reduce the recovery time. 

4. Tension and Stress

Stress and tension can multiply your problems. An ache or pain is intensified if you also cannot sleep. Your muscles become tighter when stress is prevalent in your life, escalating any other troubles. Heat therapy can help to melt away stress and dissolve any tension (3). Combining heat therapy with aromatherapy can further combat your worries. 

Heat therapy can be enjoyed from the comfort of your own home. Heating pads are easy to purchase, and the benefits to your heart with far outweigh the cost of owning one. When heat is applied to a muscle, the blood vessels expand, improving oxygen flow through the body. Nutrients get to where they are needed at a quicker rate. Damaged muscles and tissue are healed faster. Heat therapy can be used to treat back pain , neck and shoulder pain , leg pain, and more. Why waste your valuable time in a doctor’s waiting room?

Can Heat Therapy Help Decrease Pain?

This is a big question. Heat therapy is not a one-stop solution for all kinds of pain, but it can help to alleviate some of your pain. (4) A few of these mechanisms are listed below:

  • Heat therapy increases the caliber of blood vessels. This aids in tissue ventilation, lowers lactic acid, and lowers other harmful chemicals. Muscles aches could be a thing of the past.
  • When nerve endings are stimulated, you can feel pain. Applying heat to a painful area stimulates the same nerve endings. This added stimulus helps to mute the pain. The injury is still there, but the brain is not being told that there is any pain.
  • Your joints contain a lubricant called synovial fluid. When you have poor blood flow to your joints, the amount of synovial fluid can decrease, leading to stiffness and soreness. Applying heat to a joint, can increase blood flow and bring relief from joint problems.
  • When the temperature of tissue is increased, blood vessels are widened. Wider blood vessels mean that oxygen and nutrients are supplied, leading to a decrease in carbon dioxide, and less metabolic waste.

Is Heat Therapy Safe?

Heat therapy has been around for thousands of ears. Although it is considered to be safe, there are some conditions which can be worsened when heat therapy is used.

  • When treating surgical wounds, any form of wetness should not be allowed near the wound. If using hot compresses, it is especially important that they are completely dry.
  • Any time a part of the body is surgically opened, such as a colostomy, you should be careful about using heat. Heat can produce moisture, and you do not want moisture getting into a wound.
  • If you have tissue damage or other sensory affliction, you should pay careful attention when using heat therapy. If a pad were to get too hot, you might not be able to tell. Always check the heat at regular intervals.
  • For injuries with swelling, cold therapy is preferred. Heat therapy may increase the swelling if used after an injury. Wait twenty-four hours and then apply heat if it is needed to treat pain, spasms, stiffness, etc.

What are you waiting for? Start feeling the heat therapy benefits now.  You can make your own heat bag to use at home? Watch this video to learn how.

Why Does Hot and Cold Therapy Work? [Infographic]

Hot and cold therapy - infographics

Infographic by Game Ready

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Jeanette Lynn
 

Jeanette has been a professional massage therapist since 1998. She devotes her life to helping those who suffer from musculoskeletal pain. She's also a Pilates instructor and has a bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN).

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