Heat therapy has long been associated with relaxation and comfort. Chiropractors also consider it one of the most readily available first aid for lower back pain. It not only provides instant relief from pain but also helps in healing and soothing muscles. Start by taking proper guidance from your chiropractor for back pain, and then you can continue the therapy on your own.
Heat therapy dilates the blood vessels of the muscles and increase the flow of oxygen and nutrients to them, healing damaged tissue. There are many ways of using it like heating pads, heat wraps, gel packs, hot baths, warm gel massages, hot oil massages, etc. These are usually easy to work with and inexpensive.
Types of Heat Therapy
There are two common options for heat therapy:
Dry heat therapy:
- Electric heating pads, heat wraps and hot water bottle are some of the examples of dry heat therapy.
- Dry heat therapy may draw out moisture from your body and leave the skin dehydrated, so always use it carefully, and drink lots of water.
Moist heat therapy
- Hot baths, steamed towels, moist heating packs, hot oil massage and warm gel massage are some of the moist heat alternatives that usually work as better pain relievers.
- Moist heat therapy lets the heat penetrate into the muscles giving a more soothing effect.
Usage of common heat therapy:
- Electric heating pad – It maintains a constant level of heat as long as it is plugged in. But don’t sleep over it.
- Hot water bottle – It tends to stay warm for 20 to 30 minutes.
- Heated gel packs – They can be either microwaved or heated in water. They tend to stay warm for about 30 minutes. Certain types of gel packs provide moist heat too.
- Heat wraps – Wraps can be worn on the lower back, against the skin, providing convenience and several hours of warmth.
- Baths – Hot bath, hot tub, sauna and steam bath stimulate a general feeling of comfort and relaxation that may help reduce muscle pain.
It is important to either keep the heat low or use enough insulation between the heat source and the skin to avoid overheating or burning of skin.
There are also certain types of back pain for which heat therapy is not useful. Always consult your chiropractor for back pain before you start using any therapy. Also heart and hypertension patients should take special care and consult their doctor before using heat therapy.
When Heat Therapy Shouldn’t Be Used
Heat therapy should not be used under following circumstances:
- Lower back is swollen or bruised
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Peripheral vascular disease
- Open wound
- Severe cognitive impairment
Generally it’s better to apply ice or a cold pack if the injured area is swollen or bruised. Heat therapy is for muscular pain.
Heat therapy is one treatment that can relieve pain related to muscle tightness or spasm in the lower back. But don’t forget to visit a chiropractic clinic for complete treatment.