Heat Therapy: Benefits, Do’s, and Don’ts

heat therapy

Heat therapy, also called thermotherapy, uses heat to relieve pain and enhance human well-being. People use heat in a variety of ways. Heat therapies include the use of hot water cloth, heating pads, heating hydro-collator packs, cordless heat-therapy wraps, ultrasound, and many other techniques. You’ll even find massage chairs with a heat option.

This therapy is great for people who suffer from ailments such as arthritis, deep tissue injuries, inflammation, and stiff muscles. Conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis can also benefit from a touch of heart from time to time. We shall be further exploring the extensive health benefits of heat treatment here. Additionally, heat therapy offers nutrients, proteins, and oxygen, all vital ingredients to human health and happiness.

Types of heat therapy

Two general types of heat therapy exist:

  • Moist Heat Treatment with its hot baths, moist heating packs, and steaming wet towels. These products help the heat to penetrate deep into muscles for effective pain relief.
  • Dry Heat Treatment uses electric heat pads to draw moisture from the body. Many of those who’ve used this dehydrating procedure claim it to be by far the simplest most effective heat-based therapy there is.

How does heat therapy work?

Heat applied to the body as part of any therapeutic regimen will open up the blood vessels and thus promote blood circulation. The circulating blood transports much-needed nutrients and oxygen and hormones around the body to all its tissues, reducing soreness and relieving pain. Warmth and heat increase the flexibility of our muscles and ligaments as well as joints and tendons.

What heat therapy can help!

As heat raises the temperature of your tissues, supplying oxygen and nutrients with every heartbeat, the heat plays a simultaneous role in helping to eliminate carbon dioxide and metabolic waste. People who suffer from the following conditions can benefit greatly from the application of so-called thermotherapy.

  • Muscle spasms
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Contracture
  • Myalgia
  • Bursitis
  • Menstrual pain
  • Cancer
  • Thrombophlebitis (blood vessel clotting)
  • Other afflictions

Heat & headaches

Heat plays an important role in the treatment of headaches and migraines. Chronic headaches frequently give rise to tightness and tension in the neck and upper back muscles. The regular application of heat around the affected parts can relieve tension. For headaches, many people use healing pads that you can heat up in a microwave.

However, be careful because these products can cause nasty burns if you overheat them and apply them without first testing the temperature. A better, safer bet would be methods whose healing properties rely on heated water. Water rarely exceeds 100 degrees and thus it’s easier to judge the time it needs to cool to the temperature required.

Heat therapy is often touted as the ideal option for relieving stiff and aching joints. Heat applied via short waves and microwaves can also reduce muscle spasms. The waves increase the absorption of residual hematomas and, therefore, allow muscles to stretch, relieving stiffness. Hyperthermia used for heat therapy can treat cancer in parallel with ionizing radiation treatment.

Different strokes

If you’re not suffering from any chronic health problem, you can gradually test out various therapies.  A therapy that works well for someone else may not work at all for you. So it is best to choose according to your experience and inclinations.

Conditions heat cannot help

Using heat to treat certain health conditions doesn’t work and will only make them worse. Here are a few of them:

  • Swollen or bruised lower back
  • Deep vein thrombosis
  • Diabetes
  • Acute cognitive impairment
  • Acute injury or open wound
  • Bleeding disorders
  • Dermatitis
  • Peripheral vascular disease

If you have hypertension or cardiac issues, consult your doctor before resorting to any kind of heat therapy.

Heat therapy: DON’TS

Follow these tips to ensure the safe, beneficial use of heat therapy:

  • DON’T put heat therapy products or devices into direct contact with your skin. Always wrap them in a thin towel or something similar.
  • AVOID applying heat therapy for more than 20 minutes at a time unless directed to do so by your doctor or therapist.
  • NEVER attempt to treat swelling with heat therapy. Use cold therapy instead.
  • DON’T use therapy involving heat  if you are diabetic or have poor blood circulation.
  • AVOID applying heat therapy to areas of skin that have open wounds or stitches.
  • NEVER allow yourself to fall asleep when lying down directly on a heating pad. It can badly burn your skin.


The application of heat is a simple, inexpensive, and effective way of relieving pain  and stress in different parts of the body. It is extremely efficacious for chronic pain in the lower back. Moreover, you can also use heat alongside other types of massage therapy. The beauty of this therapy is its simplicity—often overlooked by physical therapists

Always consult your physician before using any therapies on your body.


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