heat for muscle pain

Heat or thermotherapy is a natural way of relaxing muscles and reducing the pain in muscles. That being said not all pain can be relieved by heat and there are conditions and illnesses which are exacerbated by applying heat. So which pain can you treat with a nice warm wheat sack and which should be avoided?

I’m sure most women have snuggled up with a hot water bottle or wheat sack from time to time when suffering with PMT cramps, and the reason we use heat for muscle pain is because the heat relaxes the muscles and reduces the cramping and as the cramps reduce so does the pain.

Common problems which benefit from heat treatment

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Similarly, if you work at a desk all day and often feel tightness in the muscles or soreness in the neck from the way your sitting you are likely to benefit from heat therapy, again the heat relaxes the tight muscles and helps them and you to relax.  Other common muscular pain such as muscle knots, trigger pain points, tired muscles and pain caused by overexertion can also be relieved using heat therapy.

Conditions such as Fibromyalgia and restless leg syndrome also benefit from heat but it becomes a little less clear with arthritis and muscle strains. Stiffness related to osteoarthritis can benefit from heat treatment, but areas of acute arthritic or rheumatoid inflammation such not be treated with heat as this can exacerbate the problem. It is an important rule to remember that heat treatment is used for mostly non-inflammatory body pain.

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The difference between a strain and a trigger point

It is not always as easy to determine the difference between a minor strain or a bad trigger point, so thought must be given to potential injuries that may have occurred before applying heat. It helps to note that a muscle strain is a tear in the muscle which is physical damage whereas a knot or a trigger point is a piece of tissue which has gone into micro-spasm. A minor strain you will still have mobility but you may have mild pain when using the muscle.

With more severe strains movement is likely to be restricted and it could take several weeks for the injury to heal, apply ice soon after the injury will help reduce the swelling, decrease blood flow and reduce pain.

Wheat sacks are my favourite way of getting heat into the muscle, especially around the neck area and can be bought from online for a few pounds a

What NOT to treat Heat with

  • Infection
  • Fresh Injury – This is where tissue has been physically damaged for example a strain. This kind of injury will have some inflammation for a few days and heating this will make the inflammation worse.
  • Acute inflammation
  • Suspected or actual appendicitis

Inflamed or injured muscles and joints are most likely not going to benefit from heat and will respond better to ice treatment. Using heat for muscle pain such as cramped muscles, knots and trigger points will help reduce pain. Wheat sacks are my favourite way of getting heat into the muscle, especially around the neck area and can be bought from online for a few pounds. Combining heat treatment and regular massage is an excellent way of reducing knots and tension and relieving pain.





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