Heat or Cold Therapy for Fibromyalgia

Source: John Hopkins

We always have a hard time getting out of a warm shower or bath. The warm water provides a “feel good”, relaxing feeling. Fibromyalgia patients feel a similar way when using heat therapy. The heat applied to the affected area dilates the blood vessels which increases blood flow. Heat therapy is an effective and inexpensive form of chronic pain relief. The rush of blood flow repairs soft tissue, provides more oxygen, increase muscle tone, relaxes tense muscles, and flushes out any waste or toxins to the site.

The benefits of heat for fibromyalgia patients:

  • Decreases pain, especially around the tender points
  • Relax stiff and tight muscles
  • Increases flexibility and range of motion
  • Decreases fatigue
  • Decreases stress, to provide a good night of sleep

Heat should be avoided by people with inflammatory conditions or diseases, such as arthritis. Since fibromyalgia is not an inflammatory disease, sufferers gain pain relief from heat therapy.

There are two types of heat therapy: Superficial and deep heat therapy. Superficial heat therapy heats the skin and skin surface by heating pads and hot packs. Deep heat therapy needs to reach the core muscles by using ultrasound or whirlpool baths. Remember to consult your healthcare provider before beginning your heat therapy.

Warm bath/shower

Helps relax; reduces pain and stiffness throughout the body.

Hot packs

The common source of heat therapy relieves muscles spasms and pain, especially when caused by restless leg syndrome. Soak a facecloth or towel in hot steaming water, place over affected area, and wait 10 minutes.

Whirlpool baths

For many fibromyalgia patients, the baths alleviate pain and stress. The bath circulates water around affected area which increases the circulation. Whirlpools are effective in increasing blood flow to the area.

Heating pad

An electric pad that is place superficially over affected area to reduce pain and stiffness.

Paraffin Waxing

This increases skin elasticity and restores moisture in hands and feet. The wax is melted to warm temperature, the affected area is dipped into the wax, pulled out, dipped until you have a good wax covering, wrap a towel around the whole area for 20 minutes, and peel off wax.

Cold Therapy

Cold therapy is beneficial for many fibromyalgia sufferers to numb the affected area. The cold constricts the blood vessels and decreases blood flow, in turn, reducing inflammation. Common forms of cold therapy:

  • Ice bag or frozen vegetables
  • Cold pack
  • Ice bath
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