Often we find that patients have a preference for heat or ice therapy, but both have very specific uses when it comes to treating pain. Ice therapy should be used to reduce swelling and inflammation, and heat therapy should be used to relax muscles and increase circulation. Both can help to reduce discomfort, but in specific circumstances one therapy may be suggested over the other.
When Is Heat Therapy Most Beneficial
Heat therapy is most frequently used in patients who have chronic or long-lasting pain. The deep penetration of heat won’t be placed directly against your skin, to protect you from potential burn or similar injuries. Our therapeutic heating pads will be wrapped in towels and we may ask you to hold a towel to keep the heat pressed against the aggravated area.
If you have sustained injuries in your back which has resulted in tension and stiffness in the muscles and soft tissues of the lower back or lumbar region, heat therapy may be suggested. The heat applied to this area will assist in increasing circulation, which may otherwise be impeded. If not properly rehabilitated injuries such as these can sometimes escalate to spasms.
Why Heat Therapy Helps
- Dilates the blood vessels of the affected muscles, allowing them to relax and begin healing.
- Helps lower discomfort by reducing the amount of pain signals going to the brain.
- Increases the ability of your muscles to easily flex and stretch, thereby decreasing stiffness.
Heat therapy, as well as ice therapy, are often parts of an overall chiropractic treatment plan. Using heat therapy before an adjustment will allow for the muscles to be more susceptible to treatment and therefore speed up recovery.
Heat therapy is not used on swollen or bruised tissues, or in patients who have dermatitis, deep vein thrombosis, diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, open wounds, and cardiovascular conditions such as hypertension. If you would like to know if heat therapy is right for you, speak directly with your doctor.