To mark the middle of winter, we’ve decided to talk about something we’re probably all craving right now: heat. If you’ve ever experienced a painful injury in your muscles, joints, or sensitive tissues, then you understand the importance of immediate pain relief. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories or painkillers aren’t the only solution. Understanding how to treat your injury locally could either speed up your healing or slow it down. We know there is a lot of confusion about when and how to apply heat to an injury. We hope that this blog post enlightens you and lifts the veil of uncertainty, so that the next time you’re injured, you know just what to do.
When to Apply Heat
Knowing when to apply heat requires a basic understanding of what it does to the body’s internal systems. In a nutshell, warmer temperatures stimulate blood flow. For this very reason, it’s important that we go through a quick warm up before we exercise (notice we said the words “warm up”?). Heat also relaxes tense muscles and loosens the tissues in your body, which is why heating pads, warm blankets, and bubble baths all contribute to a more relaxed sensation. So, when is the best time to apply heat to an injury? We recommend applying heat to parts of your body that suffer from chronic conditions before you exercise to ensure proper blood flow to the area.
Never Apply Heat…
- To a swollen area
- To acute injuries (like a sprained ankle)
- After a physical activity
- When you want to reduce inflammation
In all the cases listed above, the best treatment is an ice pack applied directly to the area. Of course, if you continue to experience intense pain that doesn’t get better, see your doctor.
How to Apply Heat to Your Injury
Using heat will depend on where the injury is located and what you want to achieve. If your entire body is tense, sore, and stiff, you may experience a better outcome from spending a few minutes in a sauna or hot bath, or participating in activities that require a heated environment, such as swimming or Bikram yoga. To apply heat to a local area for chronic pain, try a heating pad or hot wet towel. To avoid burning yourself, remove the heat source every twenty minutes to give your skin a break. Never apply heat if you aren’t sure about the proper treatment for your injury. At times, alternating hot and cold treatments should be used. And remember, the temperature of your heating pad doesn’t need to be scalding. A moderate heat is fine.
When is Heat Not Enough?
Hot pads can do wonders for chronic injuries, cramping, and tension. However, there are some cases where your injuries or pain may need professional help. Did you know that chiropractic care can relieve pain from a wide variety of common ailments, such as back pain, joint pain, headaches, premenstrual syndrome, and strain injuries? Heat treatments, while helpful, usually only address the symptoms of chronic conditions or unresolved musculoskeletal problems; however, only treatments like chiropractic care can help resolve your problems for good. If you’re constantly finding yourself reaching for the heat pad, consider paying a visit to your local chiropractic clinic. Book Online with Symtrio Chiropractic or read our FAQ page for more information.