Heat therapy – the benefits of using heat for muscle pain

Heat therapy - the benefits of using heat for muscle pain

Heat therapy can be very beneficial for the treatment of muscle pain.

Heat is a vasodilator, it takes blood vessels from constriction or reduced blood flow to a position of dilation and increased blood flow.

Often when we experience pain in our bodies the brain reacts with a contracture. It attempts to try and protect the area that’s hurting. People who suffer with bad backs or musculoskeletal pain often have, over a period of time, shortened or tightened muscles.

If you suffer from recurring back spasms or neck pain, often the upper trapezius muscles, the scalenes and the erector spinae muscles become chronically tight over a period of time. They’ll be lots of reduced blood flow and lactic acid build up. The tissues and the muscles themselves are apoxic, they are starved of oxygen.

When to use heat therapy

When the muscles become starved of blood flow the overall health of the tissues starts to deteriorate and it’s a good time to use heat therapy.

Healthy muscle cells, under magnification, will usually appear quite pink because they’ve experienced good blood flow and had the oxygen and nutrition they need.

Unhealthy cells through a lack of good blood flow. Nutrition to these cells has been compromised through reduced blood flow, meaning cell death, atrophy or even necrosis where without sufficient nutrition and oxygen the cells just break down and die. In these situations muscles respond very well to heat therapy.

With a hot water bottle or a microwavable pack, you can use heat therapy on a atrophied muscle which is suffering from chronic fatigue, this will have a very relieving effect and help the muscle to relax.

Heat can also be used in combination with cold therapy to further increase the flow of blood through the muscle by opening and closing the vessels. This is often referred to as hot cold therapy.

Treatment for muscle and joint pain

If you’ve got a musculoskeletal condition, whether acute or chronic in nature and you want some help and advice on managing the pain you can use our pain assessment tool to find the likely cause of your pain and download expert treatment advice.

Start your Pain Assessment

Watch the ‘Benefits of heat for treating muscle pain’ video here

Other resources

Hot cold therapy – how it works
Hot cold treatment – when to use
Heat Therapy: The Complete Guide to Treating Pain with Heat