How many of us like to reach for the heating pad when we are in pain? There are very good reasons for that. Heat can help reduce pain because the increased temperature relaxes the muscles and increases circulation. Adding heat to your self care or massage session can help with old chronic injuries due to increasing the blood flow to help in the healing process of damaged tissues. Another benefit to heat is that it is very relaxing. How many of us love the hot tub? Heat eases a worried mind and slows down breathing. Another added benefit to heat is that perspiration is good for the lymph system and therefore good for your immune system.
As good as it feels to use heat, there are reasons to NOT use heat if you have low blood pressure or any problems with blood pressure regulation since heat decreases your blood pressure more. If you are pregnant, hormonal changes can also cause difficulties with blood pressure changes. Multiple Sclerosis since heat can cause temporary weakness. Peripheral Arterial Disease because with a compromised circulatory system, blood vessels do not respond in a normal way to temperature changes. Severe or long term diabetes because of compromised blood vessels. Inflammation, because heat increases inflammation, this is when it is advised to use cold. Impaired sensations can make you vulnerable to burning since you won't feel the intensity of the heat. Certain medications can make you more sensitive to heat. If you are already wearing a topical analgesic such as icy hot, ben gay, etc. can alter heat sensation.
When deciding on what types of heat to use at home, there is a difference in dry heat and wet heat. When you shop for a heating pad, you will sometimes see a choice. Moist heat penetrates deeper than dry heat. There are also some massage tools that have the option of heat or no heat. Using heat with massage helps to get deeper into the tissue to break up adhesions. If you use your hands a lot, running them under warm water while stretching them can get your muscles warmed up before doing any tasks with your hands. Putting your hands in cold water with ice after your task can decrease the chances of inflammation setting in.