Because heat feels so good to most of us we tend to use it when we have minor aches and sore muscles. No doubt it is a wonderful way to relax at the end of a long day or week. Still, it surprises us how many of our clients do not know how to take advantage of using heat at home so here are a few tips to give more options.
There are two main types of heat application – dry heat and moist heat. Dry heat warms superficial tissue while moist heat can penetrate to a deeper level and may stimulate the release of sweat through sweat glands in the skin. Depending upon the type of heat source you use you can apply the heat source from a few minutes to an hour. Moist heat is generally applied for up to 10 minutes or until the heat has been dissipated and the hot towel or other device has cooled. Heating pads can be used for longer periods of time.
The immediate effect of heat applications is to dilate (widen) blood vessel diameters and increase blood flow into the local area. When using total body heat sources such as saunas, hot tubs and steam rooms the demands placed upon the cardiovascular system can be overpowering and caution must be exercised if you suffer from heart conditions or blood pressure irregularities. Always check with a licensed medical professional before using those devices.
Benefits of heat application
Increases blood flow to the area of application
Relaxes tight muscles
Softens connective tissue
When not to use heat
When in doubt it is always a good idea to ask a medical professional.
High blood pressure
Osteoarthritis – when flared up
Rheumatoid arthritis – when flared up
Fever or elevated temperature
Open sores or wounds
Recent alcohol consumption
Neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and Multiple Sclerosis
Methods of heat application at home
Moisten towel with hot tap water
Place towel in a pot of heated water
Place towel in a crock pot at medium setting
Place moist towel in microwave for 30 – 45 seconds
Hot Shower, bath or hot tub/whirlpool
Steam room – may not be at home but health club may have one.
Clay filled, cloth covered moist heat packs (hydrocollator packs) can be heated in crock pot or large water pot on stove. You must place layers of toweling between the heat pack and your skin as the heat generated can be intense and cause burns.
Electric heating pad
Sock filled with rice or similar material placed in microwave
Hot water in a latex ‘bottle”
Chemical heat packs
Smooth river rock heated in a pot of hot water. Make sure to protect your fingers when using these. Can be wrapped in a moist, hot towel to prolong heating effect of towel.