Heat therapy is an effective way to treat muscle stiffness and pain. Warming muscle tissue increase blood flow to the tissues which increases the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the muscle tissue and helps flush out toxins that cause soreness.
The most common forms of heat application at home these days are using a heating pad or hot water bottle. Some people also may take a warm bath or shower. I have had clients tell me that they warmed their muscle tissue using a hair dryer.
Always use caution when applying heat therapy. You do need to have quite a bit of heat to get good results, but you do not want to cause damage to your skin. Please do not use a hair dryer as this will certainly dry out and could possibly damage your skin. A heating pad is a fine method of applying heat, but not the most effective. The heat should penetrate to your muscle tissue without burning your skin. You should be able to tolerate the heat comfortably while feeling it slowly sink deeper into your tissues.
Moist heat is more effective then dry heat. Why? Because water conducts heat more quickly then air. So moist heat will penetrate your muscle tissue more quickly and effectively. Not all of us have a hot tub in our back yards, though I’ve always thought that would be great. So, what do you do? Well, a warm bath or shower can really do the trick. If you are taking a bath consider adding good old fashioned epsom salts to your bath. They draw toxins out of the body and so can really help with refreshing and relaxing the muscle tissue. Try soaking for at least 20 minutes. If using a warm shower you might even try a massaging shower head. I got mine for about fifteen dollars. It isn’t the fanciest one in the world, but it really does feel good.
A more portable method of moist heat application is a trick that we doulas use all the time. We call it a rice sock. It’s just like the therapeutic herbal neck wraps that I make or that you can buy at body care stores. Only here’s the poor man’s version:Take a large old (but clean!) tube sock. Fill it with rice. Tie a knot in the top. Microwave it for about 2 minutes. Check to make sure it is not too hot for your skin. If it is wrap a dry towel around it. Place your rice sock on any sore muscle and breath in the cozy! The rice retains some moisture from the air so when it is heated up you get moist heat that you can take anywhere you go.