Benefits of Heat Therapy using Herbal Wheat Bags
The overall qualities of warmth and heat have long been associated with comfort and relaxation; heat therapy goes a step further and can provide both pain relief and healing benefits for many types of muscle injuries. Heat therapy is also a great method of providing immediate relief from sore, stiff and tight muscles and joints.
Medications alone are not always enough to provide adequate relief; heat therapy can supplement conventional medical treatments to give patients a welcome reprieve from pain.
Heat application can be used to lessen pain, relieve muscle spasms, decrease joint stiffness, increase blood flow, and accelerate the inflammatory process. These effects are the result of several physiological responses to heat:
Increased Blood Flow
Heat application works by adding energy locally, increasing the metabolism of all types of cells. The application of heat temporarily increases blood circulation to the affected area. The increased blood flow to the problematic or injured areas promotes healing of your musculoskeletal wound or injury. Heat therapy helps dilate the blood vessels in the injured tissues, which promotes the increased flow of oxygen and nutrients to your injured muscle, which helps to heal the damaged tissues.
Increased blood flow also serves to speed the removal of toxins from the site. This improved blood flow to your injury site means that any harmful metabolic byproducts that have accumulated in the area are washed away.
Relaxation of Muscles and Tendons
Muscle spasms can generate sensations ranging from mild discomfort to marked pain, but heat therapy helps relieve muscle spasm-related pain and relax your tight and tender muscles. Heat reduces muscle spasm by reducing tension in muscle trigger points, increasing the ability of the muscle tendon unit to relax and stretch.
This occurs because the heat reduces the viscosity of the collagen in these muscles. Collagen is the most common protein found in the body. It is found in bone, cartilage, tendon, ligaments, skin, and the sheath covering of muscle. The application of heat lowers the viscosity of collagen, softening muscle and tendon, enabling muscles to extend more easily.
If the heat is applied over enough time, the muscle and tendons relax and stretch more readily. This is the mechanism that occurs when heat is applied to muscle cramps and it can also reduce painful stiffness in joints.
Increased Range of Motion
Heat relaxes muscles, which eases stiffness and improves joint mobility. Heat therapy increases your circulation and the extensibility of your connective tissues, which, in conjunction with appropriate stretching exercises, helps improve or optimize your flexibility and your joints' range of motion. Applying heat to your injured area facilitates the stretching of your soft tissues, including your muscles, connective tissue and any adhesions or scar tissue that might be present.
Heat therapy can also reduce inflammation, including inflammation from various types of arthritis, and from congestion in your tissues that is associated with sub-acute or chronic traumatic conditions of your superficial joints and muscles.
Reduced Sensation of Pain
Heat stimulates the sensory receptors in the skin, which means that applying heat will decrease the transmission of pain signals to the brain and partially relieve the discomfort. This means that you won’t experience as severe as pain as you once did. The new sensation of heat blocks the discomfort by taking up some of the bandwidth available to the pain signals - this means the brain focuses more on the heat and less on the feeling of pain. In more scientific language you are providing a ‘counter – irritant’ to the painful area.
Additionally, the body has its own fabulous natural pain killers called endorphins; these can be released by the body and cause a reduction or inhibition in pain. Heat therapy causes the release of endorphins.
All of these actions work together to provide temporary relief of aches and pains, plus helping to promote healing. Consequently, with heat therapy, there will be a decrease in stiffness as well as pain, with an increase in flexibility and overall feeling of comfort.
There are several other significant benefits of heat therapy that make it so appealing. Compared to most therapies, heat therapy is quite inexpensive. Heat therapy is also easy to do - it can be done at home while relaxing, and portable heat wraps also make it an option while at work or in the car.
And relative to most medical treatments available, heat therapy appeals to many people because it is a non-invasive and non-pharmaceutical form of pain relief.
Heat Therapy Combined with Other Treatments
For many people, heat therapy works best when combined with other treatment modalities. Medications such as anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxers and pain relievers can be used to maximize pain relief. In addition, massage, physical therapy and exercise are used to condition and heal muscles.
Heat therapy can be used alone but is most effective when used in combination with other treatment modalities.
Application of Heat Therapy
There are several ways that you can apply heat to painful areas of the body. One of the best is with a wheat bag. Wheat bags are an easy and convenient method used to apply heat therapy; you simply heat the wheat bag in a microwave then apply to the affected area of the body. It moulds to the affected area easily and can be reheated as needed in the microwave.
A wheat bag can be microwave heated to provide comforting warmth:
- Soothes aching muscles and joints
- Relieves stress and tension
- Soothes frozen shoulder or pains
- Alleviates neck pain
- Gives comfort from back pain and abdominal pains
- Eases arthritic pain
- Reduces the pain and stiffness of Fibromyalgia
- Helps treat knee and leg pain
- Effective relief for Sciatica sufferers
- Provides relief from Menstrual Cramps and Period Pain
- Effective in the relief for Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS
Heat therapy provides a natural alternative for the management of pain. Using heat therapy speeds up your metabolism or cellular processes, and will improve your ability to heal following a soft tissue injury. Heat therapy is easy to use and can be done at home. It is an inexpensive, non-invasive and effective way to relieve pain.
Ice and Heat Therapy
The application of either heat or ice is considered standard in the care of orthopaedic problems. Which one you use depends on whether the pain is new or recurring.
The general rule is ice for the first 48 hours after an injury then ice or heat thereafter. In general a new injury will cause inflammation and possibly swelling. Ice will decrease the blood flow to the injury, thereby decreasing inflammation and swelling. Pain that recurs can be treated with heat such as a microwave wheat bag, which will bring blood to the area and promote healing.
A wheat bag can be frozen and used as a cold compress to provide cold therapy. Read more here: Heat Therapy and Ice/Cold Therapy - Which Should You Use?