Heat therapy as a treatment for soothing aching muscles in the back has been in use since before recorded history, a restorative for tired regions of the spine. Use of everything from hot baths to heating pads has exploded in popularity in the West as the therapy’s efficacy at easing the body’s ails has become increasingly well-known.
Heat therapy is so effective because of the three channels it activates that get the body working to soothe itself:
1. Stretching of soft tissues. One of the most common reasons for the employment of heat therapy is stiff, sore muscles around the lumbar region of the spine. What heat therapy does here is to stretch and relax the muscles it’s applied to, allowing them to untighten and ease into more natural positions.
2. Dilating skin and muscle blood vessels. Another prime function of heat therapy is its dilation of blood vessels in the skin and muscles of the back. This widening of vessels increases the blood flow to the areas where the heat is applied, raising oxygen and nutrient levels and leading to more rapid repair of damaged tissue.
3. Stimulating dermal sense receptors. Heat therapy activates sensation in the skin where it’s used, effectively crowding out a portion of signals from stiff and sore muscles of the back. Because of the brain’s limited ability to handle incoming sensation, anything you do that raises sensory “noise” to the brain – from pinching yourself to heating sore parts – can be effective at reducing the effects of tender muscles.