Winter is one of the most beautiful seasons, bringing with it white snow and cooler temperatures. Unfortunately, for people who suffer from chronic pain, colder weather can also bring an increase in the pain that they feel, while warmer temperatures in spring and summer bring a release from that pain.
While it’s impossible to make the seasons spin by faster, you can always bring a touch of summer into the colder winter months in the form of heat therapy.
What Is Heat Therapy?
Heat therapy is defined as “the use of heat in therapy, such as for pain relief and health.” This can be applied directly to the affected area with the use of heating pads or hot washcloths, or with systemic application, during which you raise the temperature of your entire body. This can be done with the use of a hot bath, a sauna or, occasionally, with infrared radiation.
Basically, any time you’ve strained a muscle and put a heating pad on it or took a hot shower to ease the pain, you’ve been utilizing heat therapy without even knowing it.
Why Does Heat Therapy Work?
Heat therapy has three distinct benefits when used to treat chronic pain:
- It dilates the blood vessels in the affected area, facilitating blood flow and an increase of oxygen and nutrients to the area. This influx of new nutrients can help to stimulate healing of the damaged tissue.
- It helps to stretch any affected soft tissues, effectively getting rid of the uncomfortable and painful stiffness that often accompanies injury or chronic pain.
- It helps to reduce pain transmissions from the affected area by stimulating the nerve endings and sensory receptors in the skin.
How Do I use Heat Therapy?
Chances are, you’re already familiar with the basics of heat therapy. Here are a few tips that you should remember before starting, however:
- Heat therapy does not mean “hot to the point of burning.” You want it to be warm, but not hot enough to cause damage. We’re trying to reduce pain — not cause more!
- Heat is better for chronic pain, stiff joints, and sore muscles. If you’re experiencing a more acute pain, such as those caused by injury, cold therapy might be more effective in reducing pain.
Heat therapy can take many forms. If your entire body is hurting, a hot bath, a shower or a soak in a hot tub can work wonders. If you’ve got a specific area on your body that hurts, you can use a more targeted approach by utilizing hot cloths or heating pads. Heat wraps, like Thermacare pads, are easy to use, have a gentle adhesive to hold them in place under your clothing, and provide hours of low-heat relief.
Even chronic migraine sufferers can use heat therapy to help ease the pain of their migraine headaches.
There’s no reason to let the winter season make you suffer. Instead, by utilizing heat therapy, you can continue to enjoy the beautiful winter weather, pain-free.