the heat is on!
This week I am addressing heat therapy and some of the general uses. When it comes to using heat we have several methods to choose from, so I'll highlight those that are successful for me.
the tried and true standard
Up first, the heating pad. Heating pads are easy to use and easy to find. Any decent drugstore should have them in stock. The technology is pretty straight forward. You plug it in, select a temperature and apply to the affected area. But, do they work? Yes, if used correctly.
- Heating pads should only be used on muscle areas that aren’t swollen.
- Inflammation is exacerbated by heat, causing more pain and complications.
- Heat should be used in intervals of 15 - 20 minutes.
- For example, on a shoulder, use the heating pad for 15 minutes, then do slow movements like arm circles and raising your hand above your head to get the muscles going.
- For your back, lie on the floor and bring one knee at a time up to your chin and hold for a few seconds. Repeat this process over a 30- 40 minute period.
I hear stories from my patients about sleeping with heat on their neck through out the night. This is really bad for you. Remember this before you sleep on a heating pad: have you ever cooked a brisket? It takes several hours of low heat and it comes out really tender and falling apart. Do you know what brisket is? It is cow muscle. Do you know what you’re putting low heat on for several hours if you sleep overnight with a heating pad on? Uh huh. Muscle.
in the medicine cabinet
Next, there are various ointments that are commonly available. Try to find the brands that don’t have a lot of metals in the ingredients. Your skin is the biggest organ you have so be careful what you put on it. I try to find products that contain real wintergreen oil or essential oils that are muscle specific.
Here’s a shameless plug:
I have a lotion called UR Muscle Relief that works pretty well. It doesn’t heat up but it tingles.
Make sure you follow the directions on these products because overuse can have negative side effects. I abused a product once by putting more of it on than recommended; the result was that I absorbed so much that I could taste the stuff. Yuck!
Another word of caution. These ointments can be quite odoriferous. Just saying.
The last items I’d like to mention are the different types of wraps and lamps that are available for use as heat-based home remedies.
- The Nikken company has a product line called Far Infrared Technology (FIT). These sleeves and wraps contain a material designed to use your body heat to treat the muscles just by wearing the appliance. Pretty sci-fi right?
- You can buy peel and stick wraps in drugstores. These aren’t high tech at all but they work for minor aches and stiffness. Shaq does the commercials on T.V., so it’s gotta work!
- Years ago (1950s maybe?). There were infrared lamps that you could buy. My grandparents had one. My grandpa would focus the lamp on his knee for joint pain. Now, in addition to lamps, infrared saunas are in spas, and some rehabilitation clinics have in-house infrared treatments. You can even buy your very own infrared sauna for your home. I have used one and it was glorious.
Again, follow the directions and recommendations of the manufacturer and your healthcare provider.
peace and love,