We all enjoy relaxing into a warm, soothing bath now and again. It’s amazing how something as simple as warm water can help melt away those aches and pains. This is why fibromyalgia sufferers often look to heat therapy to help reduce the severity of widespread pain, fatigue, and tight muscles. If you are suffering from the symptoms of fibromyalgia, you may be interested in trying your own form of heat therapy. Heat therapy is a simple, inexpensive, and effective way to help you get back in the swing of things again.
What is Heat Therapy?
Heat therapy has been around pretty much since heat has existed. Hippocrates was one of the first physicians to use heat therapy, and that was around 400B.C. Now, heat therapy is enjoying a comeback as an excellent way to reduce the severity of chronic pain.
Heat therapy is actually a pretty simple concept. Any treatment that uses heat to help soothe pain, relax muscles, or ease stress can be classified as a form of heat therapy. Heat therapy is very popular because it can be done by pretty much anyone and for very little cost. If you have a bathtub or a shower, or even a hot facecloth, you can perform your very own heat therapy treatment. Recently, more complex forms of heat therapy, such as ultrasound and paraffin waxing, have come into the spotlight, and they are now being used in pain clinics, hospitals, and spas across North America and Europe.
How Heat Helps
Though it is usually a very simple form of treatment, heat therapy is actually quite ingenious in the way that it relieves pain and muscle stiffness. When applied to sore areas of the body, heat helps to dilate your blood vessels. This encourages blood to rush to the affected area, flushing out toxins and other wastes. This blood also brings oxygen to the site, which helps to repair soft tissue, encourage muscle tone, and relax muscles contractions.
Heat therapy also lessens the severity of pain symptoms, though it is not completely understood why. It is thought that heat may help to numb the nerve endings inside your body, thereby decreasing your sensations of pain.
Heat Relief and Fibromyalgia Symptoms
Heat therapy is not recommended for every type of muscle and joint pain. Heat can make pain that is caused by inflammation even worse. This means that people facing arthritis and other inflammatory diseases should stay away from heat therapy. But because fibromyalgia pain is not caused by inflammation, heat therapy is an ideal choice for symptom relief.
Here are a few ways in which heat therapy can benefit your fibromyalgia pain:
- Helps to relax stiff and tense muscles, promoting flexibility and increased range of motion
- Works to reduce fibromyalgia symptoms, particularly around tender points on the body
- Helps to relieves tension, lessening chronic headaches
- Reduces stress, thereby promoting restful sleep and reduction in overall symptoms
Types of Heat Therapy
Heat therapy treatments are classified according to how deeply the heat penetrates the body. Depending upon your pain severity, one type of therapy may be more beneficial than the other. There are two major types:
Superficial Heat Therapy: Superficial heat therapy does not penetrate deep into your soft tissue. Instead, it provides heat to the skin and just beneath the skin’s surface. Hot packs and heating pads are types of superficial heating.
Deep Heat Therapy: Deep heat therapy penetrates well beneath the skin, right into the core of your muscles. Heat provided by ultrasound and whirlpool baths are forms of deep heating.
Therapies to Try
If you are suffering from severe pain or stiffness with your fibromyalgia, give heat therapy a try. Here are a few of the most effective and popular techniques among fibromyalgia patients. Remember to consult with your health care provider before trying any type of treatment for fibromyalgia.
Hot packs are probably the most popular form of heat therapy. They are especially useful for relieving muscle spasms and the soreness caused by restless leg syndrome. Hot packs and similar heat therapy products are widely available, both on the Internet and at your local drugstore. You can also make your own hot packs by soaking a facecloth or towel in hot, steaming water. Simply place the hot pack over the affected area. Leave it on for 8 to 10 minutes to achieve maximum relief. Then remove the hot pack and gently stretch out the affected area. Whatever you do, never lie on top of a hot pack – it could burst, leaving you with some bad burns.
Whirlpool baths are also very popular among fibromyalgia sufferers. This is because they offer deep heat penetration and help to relieve emotional stress. If you are lucky enough to have a whirlpool bath, then you one step ahead of the game. If you don’t have one, you could try contacting your local spa or gym to see if you can use theirs. Whirlpools are particularly effective because they circulate water all around the affected muscle. This increases circulation better than other forms of heat therapy. Some whirlpools also have jet massagers, which use water to work out tense muscles.
Paraffin waxing is just coming into its own as a form of heat therapy. It is often used in spas to help restore moisture and skin elasticity to the hands and feet. Because it delivers sustained heat to specific areas, it has also proven helpful in reducing fibromyalgia pain. All you need is some paraffin wax, which you melt down to a warm temperature. Dip the sore area into the wax and pull it out again, allowing the wax to dry. Repeat this process until you have a good, solid covering of wax over the affected area. Wrap up the area, wax and all, in a towel, and keep it on for 20 minutes. Then simply peel off the wax.