6 Techniques for Heat Therapy


Heat therapy can be a great treatment tool in the management of chronic pain. Warm temperature therapy aids in muscle relaxation, which in turn can ease pain and alleviate stiffness of sore joints. The application of heat therapy to sore, painful joints and muscles also promotes enhanced circulation and blood flow to the region. This surge of fresh, oxygenated blood can also help to diminish pain as it can dilute the build-up of lactic acid waste, which also is a factor in chronic pain.

There are many different types of heat therapy to choose from, and you may discover a favorite after trying many of them. The search may involve some trial and error to determine which therapy is optimal for your needs and which provides the best relief. Below we list six options that you may want to try in your treatment regimen.

Hot tub, hot bath or shower, steam bath, sauna

Moist heat therapy can encourage overall feelings of relaxation and well-being that may lessen pain. For example, in a hot tub or hot bath, a whirlpool jet aimed at the lower back may offer the additional advantage of a gentle massage.

Hot water bottle

This is a great option for when you are sitting on the couch watching TV at night, or working at a desk all day. These typically maintain their temperature for approximately 20-30 minutes.

Heat wraps

These provide several hours of low level heat therapy. Heat wraps are convenient because they can be worn under clothing and can sit directly against the skin. Typically they will wrap around the lower back and waist.

Heated gel packs

Similar to a hot water bottle, these packs are available in most pharmacies and will stay warm for about 30 minutes after activation in a microwave. Some heated gel pack options may also deliver moist heat, which is preferable to many people.

Electric heating pad

This simple heat therapy option comes in many different sizes. The electric option needs to be plugged into an electrical outlet, but will maintain a steady level of heat during use.

Heated paraffin wax treatment

Heated wax treatment is a fast-acting way to provide heat therapy benefits to the joints in the feet and hands. Small paraffin baths can be purchased for the home, or alternatively they are available in many salons and spas.

When using heat therapy, be very careful to avoid burns. Place insulation between the heat source and skin, and make sure you monitor your time of use (avoid falling asleep with any heated therapy treatment in contact with your skin).