Heat therapy, aka thermotherapy, means you apply some sort of heat generating mechanism to your body for relief or health maintenance. Heat treatment offers benefits galore because of the physiological effects of an increase in temperature.
Unfortunately, many head for the medicine cabinet for a solution at times when using heat therapy may actually be a better alternative. This health blurb outlines the basic physiological benefits of heat and some of the types of thermotherapy treatment options to help you assess whether your treatment goal is better served via a pill or temperature.
One of the major benefits of thermotherapy is amplified healing. Applying heat increases circulation to an area by dilating your blood vessels. This dilation boosts the flow of oxygen and nutrients in, as well as augments the flow of carbon dioxide, metabolic waste, toxins, etc. out. Just escalating the coming and going of this stuff cuts down healing time.
Another healing time benefit of heat therapy is a chemical reaction increase, coupled with the potential annihilation of foreign invaders. This aspect of heat treatment is similar to the benefits of running a fever.
Thermotherapy facilitates the stretching of soft tissues, including muscles and connective tissue, thus alleviating stiffness and enhancing flexibility. Also, heat treatment can stimulate sensory receptors to relieve pain by reducing the transmission of pain signals to your brain.
So in translation, heat therapy can replace or complement a wide variety of health related issues you seek OTC drugs for, such as:
- neck pain
- back pain
- sore muscles
- tight muscles
- muscle spasms
- muscle stiffness
- menstrual cramps
- rheumatoid arthritis
- inflammation, edema
- headaches, migraines
- sports injuries after ice therapy is no longer helpful
- skin infection ~ supports immune system response by reducing pathogen number
This is only a short list for thermotherapy health benefits. Also, heat therapy is beneficial before exercise because it “loosens up” soft tissue and increases oxygen and nutrient delivery to muscles.
There are situations for which heat treatments should not be used, especially if you have these health issues:
- heat intolerance
- bleeding disorders
- circulation problems
- no sensation in affected area
- immediately following an acute injury
- suffer from heart, lung, kidney disease
- during process of increasing inflammation
Deep heat treatments should not be applied around your eye, heart, metal implants or abdomen if you’re pregnant.
Deep heat is a type of treatment for which the heat is directed toward inner tissue through the use of ultrasound, electric current and infrared radiation therapy. Whereas, superficial types of treatment is the application of heat on the surface of your body. Examples of heat generating methods for superficial thermotherapy types are:
- hot pack
- hot cloth
- warm bath
- hot water bottle
- warm compress
- hydrocollator packs
- whirlpool bath, hydrotherapy
- cordless FIR heat therapy wrap
- melted paraffin wax & mineral oil
Moist heat is more effective than dry because water transfers heat quicker. And radiofrequency ablation is type of treatment technique that uses very high heat to kill cancer cells directly.
All heat treatments have the potential to damage tissue, especially when heat is excessively used. An overexposure to heat during a superficial heat therapy session can cause redness, blisters, burns or reduced blood circulation. So maintain your heat therapy temperature at a level that’s soothingly painless.