When to use heat
The immediate treatment for an acute muscle injury should be cryotherapy, or cold treatment. This will have the effect of slowing the metabolism, reducing blood flow and preventing localised cell degeneration. However, after two or three days you may want to switch to thermotherapy and continue with heat treatment until the injury is healed.
What type of injury?
Thermotherapy is best used for muscle pains. Problems such as muscle knots – localised spasms within a muscle – can be effectively treated with heat and massage. Heat is also very effective in alleviating lower back pain, often caused by tight muscles. But do not use heat on torn muscle tissue.
How does it work?
Thermotherapy dilates blood vessels, allowing for more efficient blood flow. This enables a more ready supply of oxygen and nutrients to the cells, which speeds up healing. The application of heat also stimulates sensory receptors, which decreases the transmission of pain to the brain. A third effect of heat therapy is the loosening of soft muscle tissue, which decreases stiffness and enhances flexibility.