If you live with chronic joint pain, chances are that heat therapy has become your best friend. There’s nothing more soothing than a warm blanket or shawl to wrap around your shoulders, and a hot bath to soak aching muscles and joints. You probably also keep a microwavable gel pack or heating pad within close reach, to use directly on sore joints. It’s not just your perception that heat brings relief. There’s scientific proof that heat therapy – moist heat therapy in particular, goes a step further than making you feel cozy. Read on to find out how moist heat therapy can quell joint pain and provide real pain relief and healing benefits. Moist heat is the winner! [caption id="attachment_426" align="alignright" width="300"] Moist heat penetrates deep tissue faster than dry heat.[/caption] If you live with arthritis or joint pain, temperature treatments are must-haves for your home. But what works best, dry heat or moist heat treatments? They all have their place. But studies show that dry heat sources may dry the skin, and moist heat may penetrate better. According to a US National Library of Medicine study, moist heat enhances pain relief, often in a shorter timeframe than dry heat. In their study, one hundred subjects exercised for 15 minutes. Dry heat and moist heat were applied in different groups after exercise and 24 hours later. Results revealed that the greatest pain reduction was shown after immediate application of moist heat. The researchers concluded that “Clinically, it has been shown that moist heat penetrates deep tissue faster than dry heat, within only 25% of the time of application of the dry heat.” 5 Healing benefits of moist heat therapy Moist heat therapy benefits extend beyond making you feel better. Here are five healing benefits: 1. The warm temperature radiates from your heat source, and dilates the blood in the area where it is applied. This increases the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the joints and muscles, making blood flow smoother and increasing ease of movement. 2. The increased flow of oxygen and nutrients to the joints helps heal the damaged tissue. 3. Moist heat helps stretch the soft tissues around connective tissue and joints, decreasing stiffness and increasing flexibility in tendons and ligaments. 4. Heat stimulates the sensory receptors in the skin, which means that applying heat can decrease the pain signals transmitted to the brain, helping to relieve discomfort. 5. The warmth from heat therapy decreases muscle spasms and can increase range of motion. http://www.spine-health.com/treatment/heat-therapy-cold-therapy/how-apply-heat-therapy How to use moist heat therapy for arthritis [caption id="attachment_427" align="alignright" width="300"] Use moist heat therapy to improve mobility, prevent stiffness and make movement easier.[/caption] 1. Use moist heat therapy regularly to improve mobility in your hands, knees and feet, to prevent stiffness and make movement easier. 2. If you have arthritis in the hands and feet, commercial devices (like Natracure’s mitts and booties) can provide targeted relief to the joints in those areas. 3. Try hot baths with Epsom salts for overall relief. 4. Regular activity is crucial for improving overall physical health. Yoga, Qi Gong, and stretching or Pilates can improve mobility and build muscle. After exercise, use your moist heath therapy to calm down areas that may have been stressed during the exercise. 5. After a workout, you can alternate heat and cold therapy to reduce inflammation in the joints and provide minor pain relief. In Easierliving.com Steve Hays, a high school cross-country coach and active marathoner explains that alternating heat and cold after a workout is paramount to pain relief, as this temperature therapy can increase blood flow to the muscles and decrease inflammation that may have been spurred by the movements. How to use moist heat safely There are many different ways to apply moist heat to ease joint pain. Here are some common options, and their pros and cons, according to Spine-Health.com
- Hot water bottle: tends to stay warm for 20 to 30 minutes.
- Electric heating pad: maintains a constant level of heat as long as it is plugged in, but delivers dry heat, not moist heat.
- [caption id="attachment_429" align="alignright" width="300"] Gel-lined Arthritis mitts and booties provide moist heat for up to an hour.[/caption] Gel-lined mitts and booties provide moist heat which many people prefer. They can be microwaved and stay warm from 30 minutes to an hour.
- Heat wraps. Different types of wraps are available for the lower back and waist, which you can wear under clothing to provide several hours of low level heat application.
- Hot bath, hot tub, sauna, steam bath: To stimulate general feelings of comfort and relaxation, warm baths help reduce muscle spasms and pain. A whirlpool jet directed at certain body parts can added the benefit of a light massage.