That’s technical talk for using a heating pad. Heat has several advantageous effects on the body. Here are some that may benefit you.

     Thermotherapy dilates blood vessels, allowing for more efficient blood flow. This enables a greater supply of oxygen and nutrients to the cells, which speeds the healing process. At the same time the application of heat stimulates sensory receptors, decreasing the transmission of pain to the brain. Heat is also known to increase the elasticity of tissues, resulting in greater flexibility which decreases the risk of injury. So what does this mean to you?

     Let's start with Injury Prevention. Many studies have proven a correlation between flexibility and soft tissue damage. The conclusion is that the more flexible you are, the less likely you are to injure yourself from over-exertion. Stretching is a must for any athlete. Professional athletes give significant attention to their flexibility. They know that prevention is the best medicine. Stretching should be part of every warm up.

     Warming up, as we call it, is really about preparation. It is the time we spend preparing our muscles, joints and systems for strenuous activity. The objective is to increase blood flow to muscles and joints. Light exercise movements are great at increasing the blood flow to muscles, which warms them up and makes them more flexible. However, due to fewer blood vessels, tendons receive very little blood flow, so the ability to warm them by light exercise is very limited. This is where thermotherapy has great benefits. Placing moist heat directly on and around joints will increase the temperature of the tendons. Tendon temperature is directly related to tendon flexibility, so more heat equals more flexibility. And since flexibility is related to injury resistance, greater flexibility equals greater resistance to injury. So add those moist heat packs to your muscles and joints for a few minutes before starting your light warm up exercises and you have a great defense against injury.

     Tendinopathy. Tendons are the strong fibrous connectors between muscles and bones. You know about these if you have ever carved a turkey. They are tough and stringy. They have to be that way in order for the muscles to pull with great force on our limbs. As noted earlier, tendons do not have the same level of blood flow as muscles do, which means they do not respond as quickly to injury or damage. Tendonitis is the swelling of tendons that were subjected to overloading, resulting in tears to the tissue. Tendinosis is a chronic condition where the tendon has suffered from repetitive motion of a sport or activity and not healed properly. In some cases, placing a warm heat pad directly on the joint area will relieve the discomfort associated with the condition. Warmth also helps to improve the flow of blood, which is beneficial for healing injured tendons. However, sometimes cold therapy works better on the joint, especially if there is significant swelling. It is a good idea to try several therapies to see which one provides the best results for you.

     Muscle knots. Tight muscles can result from several conditions, including limited motion as well as regular exercise. Stretching is the best remedy if limited motion is the cause of tight muscles. However, regular exercise can cause tight muscles even if stretching is done regularly. Tight muscles exert a continuous pull on their tendons, which may be manifest as pain at the joint. We often misdiagnose this situation as a form of tendinopathy, since the discomfort is located at the joint. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Deep friction massage on the surrounding muscles may locate a knot that is responsible for the tendon stress. A knot is a localized area of muscle that is tightly contracted. Stretching is ineffective on these due to their small size. Instead, the knot must be massaged out. Once this is done, the tendon relaxes and the associated pain disappears. Moist heat coupled with deep tissue massage is the best way to loosen muscle knots. Make massaging, stretching, and heating a part of your everyday routine and see if your joint pains disappear.