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When Heat is the Answer

24 MAR 2014

After the first two or three days of an acute injury, many people prefer the comforting warmth of heat therapy.

Heat therapy aids the flow of blood to the tissue, so it can provide the most benefits during the reparative stage of an injury. Greater blood flow means more oxygen and nutrients to your cells along with removal of waste materials.

If your injury is chronic and ongoing without swelling, then heat may be your best choice.  Along with stimulating blood flow, soothing heat helps your muscles relax and can help increase a joint’s range of motion.

Heat is best used with…

  • Chronic injuries that are sore or stiff
  • Injured muscles as a pre-workout warm-up  
  • Joint discomfort

Warmth promotes repair of muscular tissue and helps ease muscular and joint discomfort associated with chronic injuries.

Always use a barrier between the heat and your skin, such as a cloth or towel to prevent burns. You don’t want to apply heat for any longer than 15 to 20 minutes at a time.   

What’s the best way to apply heat?

Probably the one many people tend to use, and the method I do not recommend, is an electric heating pad. Just like electric or heated blankets, these electrical appliances can subject you to potentially dangerous electromagnetic frequencies (EMF’s).

Instead, use a heated water bottle or other water-warmed compress.

Alternating heat and cold is often recommended by physical therapists, clinicians, and trainers. Apply heat for 20 minutes and then immediately follow with 20 minutes of cold. 

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