General Use of Heat
Heat application helps relax tight muscles, and increases blood flow and nutrition to the area, which can help speed healing once the initial inflammation has subsided. It also helps the muscles and tendons respond better to being stretched and exercised. This treatment should feel like a gentle warmth, never hot or burning.
If you use heat application at home, a treatment time of 20 minutes (no longer) is recommended. Leave the heat off for an hour or so between treatments.
NEVER use any kind of heat on a new (within 3 days) injury. Although the heat will probably feel good at the time, it actually slows the healing process and may cause increased aching and pain a few hours after treatment. For the first 2 to 3 days after an injury, ice is a better choice.
Moist Hot Packs
Moist hot packs are a convenient and effective way of treating with heat. Over the course of the 20-minute treatment, it may make you sweat, but it should never feel uncomfortably hot or burning. If it does feel too hot, let your clinician know immediately. At first you will barely feel the warmth, but it will gradually get warmer during the first 10 minutes. Your clinician will check on you periodically to make sure you are comfortable.
The advantage of moist heat over dry heat is that moist heat penetrates deeper, so generally moist heat is preferable except for people with arthritis.
If you would like to treat yourself at home, you may use an electric heating pad only if it can be used with a moist towel. Do not use a heating pad alone, as it is a dry heat.
Warm whirlpool treatments can help relax tight muscles, increase blood flow and nutrition to the injured area which may help speed healing and allows you to exercise the joint against the resistance of the flow of the water without bearing weight on the area. The whirlpool's temperature is somewhere between 96° and 102° F. It will feel slightly warmer than a bath, and should never feel hot or burning. If at any time during the 15 to 20 minute treatment you feel light-headed, dizzy, or nauseous, let some one know as soon as possible so we may help you out of the whirlpool. Remember to have a clinician turn the jets on before you enter the whirlpool, and turn the jets off after you are out of the whirlpool to avoid the possibility of electrical shock.