Basic heat therapy, or thermotherapy can involve the use of a hot water bottle, pads that can be heated in a microwave, or a warm bath.
Applying heat to an inflamed area will dilate the blood vessels, promote blood flow, and help sore and tightened muscles relax.
Improved circulation can help eliminate the buildup of lactic acid waste occurs after some types of exercise. Heat is also psychologically reassuring, which can enhance its analgesic properties.
Heat therapy is usually more effective than cold at treating chronic muscle pain or sore joints caused by arthritis.
Types of heat therapy include:
Heat is useful for relieving:
A cold mask or wrap around the forehead may help reduce the pain of a migraine.
For osteoarthritis, patients are advised to use an ice massage or apply a cold pad 10 minutes on and 10 minutes off.
Heat is not suitable for all injury types. Any injury that is already hot will not benefit from further warming. These include infections, burns, or fresh injuries.
Heat should not be used if:
When cold is applied to the body, the blood vessels contract, vasoconstriction occurs. This means that circulation is reduced, and pain decreases.
Removing the cold causes vasodilation, as the veins expand to overcompensate.
As the blood vessels expand, circulation improves, and the incoming flow of blood brings nutrients to help the injured tissues heal.
Alternating heat and cold can be useful for:
exercise-induced injury or DOMS
Contrast water therapy (CWT) uses both heat and cold to treat pain. Studies show that it is more effective at reducing EIMD and preventing DOMS than doing nothing.
Heat should not be used on a new injury, an open wound, or if the person is already overheated. The temperature should be comfortable. It should not burn.
Ice should not be used if a person is already cold. Applying ice to tense or stiff muscles in the back or neck may make the pain worse.
Heat and cold treatment may not be suitable for people with diabetic neuropathy or another condition that reduces sensations of hot or cold, such as Raynaud’s syndrome, or if they are very young or old, or have cognitive or communication difficulties.
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