Firstly, what is heat therapy?
Well, it simply involves applying heat to a part of the body to help treat a problem that will respond positively to the treatment. The source of the heat can vary, but we’ll get to that later. Let’s talk about the benefits of heat therapy first.
Applying heat to muscles (and soft tissues) yields a number of benefits:
Heat therapy not only helps relax muscle fibres by increasing tissue elasticity to reduce stiffness1, and knots, it also helps with recovery (if the stiffness is due to overexertion during exercise or unfamiliar activities).1
- Heat increases blood flow to the area, which also brings nutrients and oxygen2
- It accelerates healing3
- It increases the activity of collagenase,3 an enzyme that breaks down collagen in damaged tissues within the skin and helps the body generate new healthy tissue.4 (Collagen is found in body tissues such as skin, tendons, muscles, and bone)
- Heat stimulates sensory receptors to help block the transmission of pain signals to the brain1
However, there are times when heat therapy should be avoided.5
A simple rule to remember is that if an injury already feels hot, further heat will not help (it may even harm recovery).5
So, avoid heat therapy in the case of infections, burns, or fresh injuries. Furthermore, heat should not be used if:5
- The skin is hot, red or inflamed
- You have dermatitis or an open wound
- The injured area is numb
How do you apply heat therapy?
There are a number of ways to apply heat to the body, but it’s important to follow some safety precautions. For example, don’t apply a hot water bottle directly to the skin – wrap it in a cloth towel or specially designed cover.
In addition, the type of heat therapy can be tailored to the issue you’re having. For example, choose a small source of heat for small areas of pain, such as a stiff muscle or joint. If the pain or stiffness is more widespread pain try using a larger heat source such as a steamed towel, large heating pad, or heat wraps. But if your whole body is in need of some help, try a hot bath or sauna.6
Heat pads are a convenient way to apply heat therapy. They slowly heat up and start working in about 10 minutes. They are also thin and discreet, and unlike bulky wheat bags, or hot water bottles, retain their heat for longer7.
Adhesive heat pads such as Hotteeze are designed to be positioned on the outside of under garments where heat is required. The gentle adhesive will help keep them in position. They are also endorsed by the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA). You can check out the range of head pads here.
Always read the label and follow the directions for use. Do not stick directly on skin.
The APA is receiving commercial consideration for the endorsement of Hotteeze.