As health care practitioners, we often advise our patients to apply heat to certain aches and pains, but when should heat be applied?
When to apply heat? When to apply ice?
This is one of the most common questions we will get asked at the end of a treatment – Ice or Heat? Heat is used for muscle soreness, stiffness and aches. It is used for more chronic issues in aim to warm up the muscles, dilute the blood vessels and increase blood flow, oxygen and nutrient supply to the area it is applied to, enhancing the recovery process. When heat is applied to achy muscles and joints, it stimulates the sensory receptors to block the transmission of pain signals to the brain, giving instant relief from pain. It is used for chronic low back pain, neck pain, muscle tightness, joint stiffness, period pain and pregnancy aches and pains.
Ice is used for areas of inflammation after an acute injury or trauma. It is used to help reduce inflammation by reducing blood flow to the area and block the pain receptors which also gives relief from pain.
How to use Hotteeze or Wheat bags
- Ensure there is an item of clothing or a cloth between the heat pack and skin as it may irriate the skin
- Never use heat packs whilst sleeping. They should never be left unattended as this may also burn the skin
- Pregnant women should never place them on the abdomen or have the wheatbag too hot. This may mask other issues that may be causing abdominal discomfort.
- Diabetic patients should consult their physician before using heat packs because it may be harder for them to determine whether the heat pack is too hot, which may cause burns.
Any woman knows how uncomfortable it can be during “that time of the month”. During menstruation, the uterus tightens as blood flow is reduced causing cramps which can mimic those experienced in childbirth. Some women find this so painful that they have difficulty working and often find themselves searching for medication and remedies to ease the pain. Heat can be placed on the lower back or abdomen to reduce the symptoms of menstrual cramps by increasing blood flow to the area and increasing tissue elasticity, which results in muscle relaxation.
Pregnancy aches and pains
During pregnancy, many women often suffer from low back pain and pelvic pain. This is due to;
- Increased weight; the low back and pelvis have more weight to support
- Increased hormone levels; as the body prepared for delivery, hormones are released that allow the ligaments and joints around the pelvis to relax
- Altered centre of gravity; as the uterus expands, the body’s centre of gravity changes and tends to load through low back and pelvis, altering the ideal posture.
At Beyond, our Osteopaths and Myotherapists help our patients to move through pregnancy, by treating many problems that may arise as well as giving exercises, stretches and other tools to aid. We often suggest to our “mothers to be” to put a heat pack onto the area of pain or discomfort, whether it be low back pain, pelvic or hip pain as well as other areas.
Heat opens the blood vessels, increases blood flow and brings fresh nutrients and oxygen to the area, which helps reduce joint pain and muscle, tendon and ligament soreness. Heat is a great tool that can be applied in the comfort of your own home, work or car. Just pop a wheat bag in the microwave or place a Hotteeze patch over your clothing and feel the immediate relief.
Contact your healthcare practitioner if you are uncertain about applying heat or ice and let us give you the tools to help you MOVE THROUGH LIFE.