Do you love your heat pack? Me too!
There are plenty of reasons to keep your heat pack close by, and not just because we're entering winter!
Heat treatment is great for muscle pain - its cheap, effective, and drug-free! Have you ever wondered why heating your sore muscles helps them so much?
Some pains are categorised as ischaemic pain - that means that the tissue has a reduction of oxygen supply which is needed for normal cell activity. This tends to happen if we're in positions that compress or over stretch areas for a long time - like sitting at a desk for a few hours without getting up to move around. Heating an area increases the local blood flow, which means the blood vessels widen to get more fresh, oxygenated blood into your muscles and joints.
What kind of pain should you use heat for?
Many kinds of non-inflammatory pains will respond really nicely to heat, including things like cramping and spasming, stiffness and persistent tight or pulling muscles.
Heat packs are easy to use for neck, shoulder, lower back or hip pain.
If you have a lot of painful areas, a warm bath can be another great way of getting heat into your muscles - why not add some Epsom salts for the added magnesium benefits for sore, tight muscles!
When should you not use heat?
Avoid heating up any fresh injuries, especially if you have open wounds or if the injury has become infected. These kinds of injuries will be in the inflammatory stage of healing - you'll be able to tell because the area may be swollen, red and hot, and most likely it'll be much more sensitive than usual!
Of course, you do need to be careful with heat packs or hot water bottles to make sure you don't burn yourself. Always wrap your heat pack or hot water bottle in a something like a pillow case, thin blanket or a towel so you don't have the hot surface directly on your skin. Using heat for too long might give you heat rash, so I usually suggest about 20 minutes at a time.
Heat on its own is more for symptom relief than for resolving the underlying issue. If you have an injury or feel that you have a lot of long term tension built up in the muscles, book a treatment with your local Myotherapist.
Mel is a Myotherapist based in Ferntree Gully.