6 Techniques for Heat Therapy


What is heat therapy?

Heat therapy involves the use of heat to reduce pain. It is often used to relax stiff joints and muscles. Heat therapy increases the temperature of the targeted area, improving circulation and blood flow. This can soothe painful joints and increase muscle flexibility.

Techniques for heat therapy

There are two types of heat that can be used to reduce pain: dry and moist. Dry heat is easy to apply and may include heating pads or heat packs. Moist heat may be more effective and can include hot baths, hot water bottles, or steamed towels.

There are many types of heat therapy to choose from. The search may involve some trial and error to determine which therapy provides the best pain relief. Six specific options for heat therapy include warm water or steam, hot water bottle, heat wraps, heated gel packs, heating pad, and paraffin wax.

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. Ensure the water is not hot enough to burn the skin.

Hot water bottle

A hot water bottle is a great option for use when relaxing on the couch, watching TV at night, or working at a desk during the day. These typically maintain their temperature for approximately 20 to 30 minutes.

Heat wraps

A heat wrap can provide several hours of low level heat therapy. They 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 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

A heating pad is a simple option that comes in 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 at-home use, while others 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 to monitor the time of use. Avoid falling asleep with any heated therapy treatment in contact with the skin.