How Heat Relieves Muscle Pain

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Thermotherapy otherwise known as heat therapy is proving to be more useful than what many people initially think. Especially when it comes to day to day muscle pain. Which is why so many people want need to know; Is heat good for sore muscles?.If your not an experienced therapist, sports trainer or in the health industry at all, knowing what to do with muscle pain can be quite daunting.

In this article, I will shed light onto the subject and explain exactly why heat therapy is a good home remedy anyone can apply for relieving muscle pain. Should you use hot or cold packs, this is also a common question and on that will be addressed in a simple manner.

Heat Treats Most Muscle PainIs Heat Good For Sore Muscles

Muscle pain brought about by muscle cramps and spasms, over-exertion, and particularly trigger points are very common and often severe. But are often mistaken for other problems. Therapeutic heating has often been ignored by science since most of its benefits are yet to be proven. All the same, everyone must understand heating just as much as how they understand how to put on a band-aid: it’s an inexpensive, drugless way of getting relief from an array of painful problems, particularly back and neck pain.

How Does Heat Help Tired & Sore Muscles

In this section, I will explain how heat relieves muscle pain in a simple to understand way while also providing 3 excellent ways you can start heat therapy from home. But first, you need to learn about the best kind of heat.

The best and most effective type of heat therapy is Infrared heat radiation wavelengths. This is because infrared penetrates much deeper than ordinary heat that you may already be use to. These wavelengths are measured in nano meters. For visible light, the typical human eye can only visibly see form 300 to 700 NM. Infrared is then beyond that and goes from 750nm+.  Infrared energy is an invisible wavelength that you can get from fire, the sun, man made devices etc. For example, a hot charcoal doesn’t put out a light source, yet you can feel warmth coming from them. This is infrared heat.  Without being too sciency, it’s the most effective and safest source of heat the human body can endure.

How The Heat Soothes Sore Painful Muscles And JointsHow Heat Relieves Muscle Pain

So when you apply heat, in particular infrared heat to the sore muscles, you won’t ‘see’ what is going on. So how do you know that the heat you are applying is even working?. Simple answer is that heat heals and relieves pain.

The more elaborate answer is this. Providing heat to the sore muscles increases blood flow to the area. With the blood flow, extra oxygen and healing nutrients are distributed to the pain areas. The body starts to go to work and the heat speeds up recovery time.

This is done because the nerves in your body send pain signals to the brain when a blood vessel in the ‘sore muscle’ region is deprived of blood cells. This is your sore muscle reacting. Providing a heat source like infrared heat to the muscles that are sore will enable more blood flow. This is because hemoglobin occurs and releases nitric oxide into the muscle walls. This then causes the blood vessels to widen in the affected area. When your blood vessels widen, they allow for more blood to flow.

So essentially, by applying heat to the sore muscle, you are widening the channel in which blood flows so that it can distribute blood cells and oxygen to the area. The body then starts to heal itself quicker in which relieves pain as the nerves sending the pain signals now realize that the once deprived blood cells are now being reinstated. This is the simple form of how heat therapy is good for sore muscles.

3 Ways To Apply Heat To Sore Muscles From Home

Heating Pads

Heating pads are an extremely effective way to relieve sore muscles form the comfort of your own home. Whats even better is the fact more and more brands are now moving over to Infrared style pads. These heat pads have many uses and come in may different shapes and sizes. Without knowing your exact muscle that is sore, my best advice would be to take a look at this buyers guide to heat pads. Here you can choose the body part that is in pain and find a suitable heat pad for the job.


Massagers with heat are another handy tool to have at home to combat sore muscles. These days, I rarely buy any device if it doesn’t have a heating element to it. By combining the massage with the heat treatment, you can relieve so many kinds of muscle related injuries. Not many massagers have infrared, but they are certainly on the rise.

If you suffer back pain frequently, a heated chair massager is a great product to have. These portable chair cushions can offer heat therapy along with Shiatsu and vibration massagers. Amazing at relieving lower back and full back muscle pain.

Red Light & Infrared Light Devices

These types of devices can be extremely good for pinpointing exact muscles that are sore. For example, using light therapy on the knees as the infrared heat penetrates all the way into the joints and tissues to improve blood circulation. Some call them miracle cures, but I don’t think of them that way. I find them to be more of a long term pain relieving strategy. This is because they do take time to work.If you consistently use infrared light therapy to your sore muscles, you are going to see results. Just don’t expect a miracle to happen on the first use. Particularly good for arthritis sufferers.

Types Of Pain Heat Is Good ForIs Heat Good For Exercise Pain

Heat is mostly for comfort, reassurance, and relaxation and offering relief from different kinds of body pain, most of which are dull, persistent and associated with cramping, stiffness, or/and sensitivity. They can be categorized as:

  • Acute soreness from muscle over-exertion: this is the kind of pain you have to deal with after your first skiing trip of the season. What’s interesting is that heat will not only be helpful in this situation but it is arguably the only thing that will benefit you.
  • Pain and stiffness in particular areas related to trigger points, osteoarthritis, and numerous kinds of spasm.

There are numerous kinds of pains but the ones mentioned above will most likely benefit from therapeutic heating. No one with a 2nd-degree burn, appendicitis or an open wound should undertake heat therapy. Always consult your Doctor before using heat therapy if you are unsure.

Does Heat Therapy Work To Relieve Pain

These next few sections will explore the different mechanisms and details concerning how heating can help people who are in pain.

To begin with, heating is known to be reassuring, and a reassurance is an analgesic  which is more of applied neurology and not a psychological effect alone. Traditional heat is known to penetrate several millimeters into the body cells and tissues and as such biochemical processes in the cells speed up because of the temperature rise. While as mentioned above, Infrared can penetrate several inches into the body. Heat could also help with the soreness that develops after exercise.

The Heat Temperature Vs Penetration

About a degree Celsius or two at several millimeters into the skin can have different effects depending on the position and the manner in which it is done. Research shows an average increase of 3.8 degrees Celsius at a depth of ten millimeters and 0.78 degree Celsius at a depth of thirty millimeters. This indicates that superficial heating is a simple way to gradually increase tissue temperature up to several centimeters, which is a large volume for most of the body muscles.

Heat for Soreness After Exercise

Arguably one of the most common therapeutic reason to immerse yourself into hot water is to try and reduce the pain of delayed onset muscle soreness, which is the 24-hour period of muscle pain you experience after engaging in unfamiliar exercises. Unlike icing which is meant to prevent the swelling of a body part after a hit, heating is the best way to mitigate soreness.

Systemic Heating Versus Local Heating

There are different ways of heating your muscles to prevent soreness, but the two main categories are systemic and local heating. Systemic heating implies raising your body temperature with a steam bath, piping hot shower, or Jacuzzi. This basically involves creating an artificial fever.

Local heating, on the other hand, entails specific heating which means applying a heated gel pack, a heating pad, heated bean bag or a hot water bottle to a specific point on your body. As mentioned above, there are many tools and devices which can use from home to pin point sore muscles. Thermotherapy is certainly good for these sore muscles when you know what you are doing. Always follow the manufacturers guidelines and speak to your Doctor when in doubt.

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