How do you know if you should use heat therapy?
The first thing I would always recommend is that you check with your physician to be sure you’re using the proper therapy for your condition. Using the inappropriate hot versus cold therapy can actually cause even further tissue damage.
As promised in the Top 5 Reasons to Use Cold Therapy…I wanted to be sure to give you the counterpart to cold therapy…heat therapy!
Let me start with some basic reason why you may want to use heat therapy and then I’ll go briefly into some of the reasons why heat therapy can be helpful.
Top 5 Reasons for Heat Therapy
1. Pain Relief (not a new injury with swelling!)
2. Increase in muscle flexibility
3. Increase in blood flow
4. Reduction of Muscle Spasms
5. Faster healing
Pain relief is probably the most common use of Heat Therapy. You do need to use caution here…an acute injury (an injury occurring less the 14 days ago with possible swelling) should not be treated with heat generally. Of course there are acceptations like when alternating cold followed by heat after a surgery, etc). However, when an injury is considered chronic (long term) such as rheumatoid arthritis or stiff muscles, heat can be very beneficial. It is suggested that heat can block the pain transmitters in the body as well.
Heat can also increase the flexibility in your muscles by causing them to relax and decrease stiffness. The same principal also applies to muscle spasms in that the muscle relaxation heat provides can relax those tightening muscles.
Increasing blood flow and faster healing are inter-related. Heat causes the blood vessels to relax, therefore blood flow increases. This intern allows more nutrients, proteins and oxygen to reach the injured area giving the chronically injured area more of what it needs to promote healing.
Just as in the Top 5 Reasons to Use Cold Therapy, this is a very brief explanation and does not encompass all of the factors involved. Again, when in doubt, please seek medical advice from a licensed physician.