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Ease your pain and tension with heat therapy

By Mina Chan RMT BSc

After being out on a cold day, we often crave a nice hot cup of coffee or tea. Don’t you feel better once you’re all warmed up from the inside out? Indeed, heat is quite a popular therapy used by many different health care providers, including Registered Massage Therapists (RMTs).

Heat therapy can help soothe an achy body and reduce tension. We can apply heat either globally to the entire body or locally to specific areas. At Sutherland-Chan Clinic Danforth & Broadview, your RMT might use a table warmer for global heat or a hydrocollator heat pack for local heat.

Hydrocollator unit with heating packs filled with clay soaking in hot water.
Temperature and time settings can be adjusted on each table warmer. 100°F is approximately 37.8°C

For self-care, your RMT may advise you to include heat therapy either globally or locally. There are many different ways to apply global heat, such as simply taking a hot shower or soaking in a hot bath. Other options include using a hot tub or sauna.

To apply local heat at home, you can use an electric heating pad, re-useable heat pack, hot water bottle, or hot towel compress.

Hot/cold packs for local heat and cold therapy are available for purchase at the clinic

Heat therapy does come with some precautions. For example, heat therapy should not be used over open wounds, recent burns, and rashes. It is also not advisable to use if you have certain health issues such as fever and uncontrolled high blood pressure. Extra precaution is needed in certain instances, including if you’re pregnant, diabetic, or undergoing radiation therapy. We encourage you to talk to your RMT about whether it’s advisable to use heat therapy given your circumstances.

When recommending heat therapy, your RMT will explain how to do so safely and effectively. A typical starting point would be to apply local heat for 5-10 minutes moderately and observe the response. The temperature needs to be warm enough to have a therapeutic effect but not too hot since there are risks of overheating, skin irritation and scalding. Global heat needs to be monitored more carefully as it increases heart rate and sweating. Overheating may lead to problems concerning blood pressure and dehydration.

When used safely, heat therapy can be a valuable part of self-care and treatment. If you’d like to explore this option, you can ask your RMT during your next massage treatment.

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