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Benefits of Moist Heat

What is the difference between moist and dry heat?

Moist and dry heat are the most common superficial heat therapy treatments. However, moist heat is more effective than dry heat in providing deeper penetration of the tissue at the same temperatures. Moist heat also has additional capacity to change the tissue temperature rapidly and obtain more vigorous response from temperature receptors. Patients often report greater relief of symptoms from moist heat. Moist heat can speed recovery by increasing blood flow to the targeted area. This increased circulation brings in fresh blood and takes away the wastes which may slow healing. Our Thera-Temp® Microwaveable Moist Heat Wraps produce moist heat by drawing moisture from humidity in the air and retaining it in therapeutic beads.

How do dry and moist heat compare?

Comparison indicates that moist heat has many advantages over dry heat:

  • Moist heat is more effective than dry heat in deeper tissue heating
  • Moist heat penetrates more than dry heat at the same temperature
  • Moist heat has additional capacity to change the tissue temperature rapidly and obtain more vigorous response from temperature receptors
  • Patients often report greater relief of symptoms from moist heat
  • Moist heat is preferred over dry heat as a treatment or component of the treatment for the following conditions: pain, stiffness and secondary muscle spasm in chronic arthritis , acute temporomandibular joint closed lock condition , and pain and muscle spasm on posterior neck and back in patients with ankylosing spondolytis

When should I use heat therapy?

Heat or Moist Heat Therapy should be used for chronic conditions such as muscle discomfort or stiffness. For example, for some people, nothing soothes their back pain like a hot pack. In a 2002 study published in the medical journal Spine, investigators at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey concluded that the continuous application of low-level heat wrap therapy eased low back pain better than two common over-the-counter painkillers. Heat therapy can also be used before exercise to increase the flexibility of joints and to increase blood flow. (Note: You should not use heat therapy after exercise. Instead, use cold therapy.) Because heat therapy increases circulation and increases the skin temperature, it should not be used when there is any swelling or inflammation.

How should I use heat therapy?

The best way to apply moist heat or heat is to alternate twenty minutes of heat therapy with a twenty minute break. Repeat this process for three to four times daily until stiffness and soreness decreases. It is important when using heat therapeutically to always have enough barrier between the skin surface and the heat pack to protect the skin.

What precautions should I take when using heat therapy?

  • Most therapists and doctors advise not to use heat right after an injury, as this will have the opposite effect of ice. Heat increases blood flow and relaxes muscles. It's good for easing tight muscles, but will only increase the pain and swelling of an injury.
  • Heat therapy should not be used on people who have circulatory problems, who are unconscious, who cannot feel or respond to heat (e.g. in paralysis).
  • Take care not to burn or damage the skin. Use extra caution if you are diabetic.
  • Place a soft towel or cloth between the heating pack and the skin.
  • Take care when using a heat pack if you are taking medicines that make you sleepy or if the area being treated is numb.
  • Limit the heat therapy at first to ten or fifteen minutes at a time. Try ten minutes every one to two hours.
  • Wait at least twenty-four hours before applying heat to skin that has been bruised, cut or used for an injection or subjected to any "invasive" procedure. (NOTE: Heat can increase bleeding.)
  • Important: If the area is inflamed or sore from overuse, use cold therapy, NOT heat therapy!

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