As the name suggests, heat therapy involves using a heat source to help treat a condition or injury. Healthcare professionals call it thermotherapy, and it is most commonly used to alleviate acute or chronic pain, especially where muscles are involved. But it can also help heal other tissue damage.1
The opposite of thermotherapy is cryotherapy, which involves using cold instead of heat. They each have their place and it’s important to know which to use, and when. Sometimes healthcare professionals recommend alternating the two.2 In simple terms, cold therapy (for example, using icepacks) is useful when there is inflammation, typically after an injury or sprain, and especially within the first 48 hours. It helps reduce inflammation and therefore pain. Heat therapy is best used after the inflammation has reduced after an injury or to relieve muscle tension and spasm. Heat should not be applied to a ‘fresh injury’, or an open wound or if infection is present.1
Applying heat to muscles and soft tissue yields a number of benefits:
- Heat increases blood flow to the area, which also brings nutrients and oxygen3
- It accelerates healing1
- It increases the activity of collagenase,1 an enzyme that breaks down collagen in damaged tissues within the skin and helps the body generate new healthy tissue.4 (Collagen found in body tissues such as skin, tendons, muscles, and bone)
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.5
Heat pads are a very safe and 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 longer6.
Adhesive heat pads such as Hotteeze Heat Pads are designed to be positioned on the outside of under garments where heat is required. The gentle adhesive will help keep them in position. You can check out the range of pads here.
Always read & follow the instructions for use & health warnings. If symptoms persist, talk to your health professional. Do not stick directly on skin.