Heat Therapy is the application of heat to specific body areas for therapeutic purposes, including pain relief and muscle relaxation. It can take the form of a hot cloth, heating pad, hot water or heat wrap. The thermal effect of the heat can not only provide pain relief but also healing benefits for many types of muscular pain and spasms.
Studies show that a heat wrap can be used to alleviate muscle pain and muscle strain, such as that caused by strenuous exercise. It can, for example, be used as preventative therapy by people who suffer back pain, helping relieve post-exercise pain intensity. A heat wrap, when worn for several hours, increases its thermal effects on muscle, exceeding the benefit of a conventional heating pad.
Heat therapy works by a number of mechanisms:
- It dilates the blood vessels of the targeted muscles, which serves to increase the flow of oxygen and nutrients to these muscles. In addition to alleviating the pain, they help to heal the damaged tissue.
- Heat stimulates sensory receptors in the skin, which helps to decrease the transmissions of pain signals to the brain, partially relieving the discomfort.
- The application of heat facilitates stretching of muscle and connective tissue. As a result, heat therapy helps decrease stiffness as well as injury.
In this video, Kaye & Peter Sehm discuss the benefits of a heat compress, and demonstrate how to prepare and use one.
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