Heat therapy types, benefits, side effects and DIY heated pads

Heat therapy: Benefits, Side effects, and DIY Heated pads

There are two most commonly used methods to treat pain, stiffness, and uneasiness at home: heat and cold therapy. These are recommended for relieving aching pain. But now they have become the center of attraction in medicine due to their benefits.

What is heat therapy?

Heat therapy, or thermotherapy, uses heat in all therapeutic approaches to heal, primarily for pain relief. It is commonly used for rehabilitation purposes. Heat therapy works through various modes as can be:

  • Hot cloth
  • Hot water bottleUltrasound
  • Heating pad
  • Hydrocollator packs, 
  • Whirlpool baths
  • FIR heat therapy wraps (cordless). 
heat vs cold therapy

How does it work?

It usually works in one of three ways:

  1. By dilating the blood vessels present to increase the oxygen and blood flow. It supports the quick healing of damaged tissue.
  2. By stimulating the sensory receptors embedded in the skin to decrease the pain transmitting signals to the brain
  3. By stretching the soft tissues such as muscles, connective tissue, and adhesion decreases stiffness and increases the movement flexibility

Different types of heat therapy

  1. Dry heat or conducted heat therapy – It includes heating pads, heating packs, heated gloves, jackets, socks, and even saunas. You can apply Dry heat for up to 8 hours.
  2. Moist heat or convection heat therapy – It includes steamed towels, moist heating packs, or hot baths. It can only be applied for a maximum of 2 hours. It tends to act more quickly.
  3. Superficial heat therapy – Methods involved in superficial heat are moist hot packs, fluid therapy, whirlpool, and paraffin, commonly called warm wax. It elevates skin and tissue temperature after you have applied it for a maximum of 20 minutes.
  4. Deep heat therapy – Methods involved in deep therapy are ultrasound and diathermy. They elevate the temperature of deep tissues only within 15 minutes.

Health benefits of heat therapy

Heat therapy is highly beneficial for patients with severe joint and muscular pain or stiffness due to arthritis. As a form of self-care, heat can help you heal quickly if you have a deep injury that hurts a lot.

It increases blood flow to provide all essential nutrients and oxygen to the affected area to support quick healing. Apart from stiffness, it relieves pain and reduces inflammation and edema to a significant level.

The primary therapeutic effects of heat are how it increases the extensibility of collagen tissues and improves heart functionality.

Are you experiencing muscle spasms? Or do you want to warm up before a workout? Heat therapy can help you.

The use of hyperthermia in heat therapy is found valuable in treating cancer and the side effects of cancer treatments such as radiation. Adding to your surprise, heat therapy can help you get a peaceful sleep.

Heat therapy will not only increase Sleepiness but take you to low-wave sleep or deep sleep. It can help you recover from physical and emotional stress. Moreover,

  • Help relieve asthma and allergy medication symptoms 
  • Hyperthermia can give positive results in patients with depression
heal benefits of heting pads

Heat Therapy Side Effects

  • Skin burn
  • Increased risk of spreading infection 
  • Swelling
  • Fainting or dizziness
  • Bleeding (if applied on open wounds)
  • Puffiness 
  • Redness or hotness

How to make rice bags for heat therapy?

  • Take a bowl and start adding all the ingredients you need to put inside your bag. Mix 20-30 drops of essential oils or 1 cup of dried herbs (lavender, rosemary, or chamomile) you want for extra healing effects and a sweet aroma in 6 cups of uncooked and dried rice (the cheapest variety is fine).
  • Let the oil dry and leave your mixture for 20 minutes to 1 hr. for proper mixing.
  • Choose any fabric; even the old fabric you have at home will work. Make sure the material is soft and skin-friendly.
  • Draw the design on fabric and Cut it out. Sew them together as planned to get the proper shape of the bag.
  • Start Filling the bag with rice mixture, not more than 2/3 full, and sew all the open ends.
  • Put the bag in the microwave, and let it heat for a minimum of 2 minutes.
DIY rice sack heat pad
Source: Bev Cooks

Did you know that you can reduce your heating costs by finding the best time to turn on the heating system?

How to make corn bags for heat therapy?

  1. You can consider corn bags the heating pads made with all-natural ingredients. It is the easiest way to soothe your stiff, strained, painful, sore, and tired muscles and joints. Follow these steps if you want to make corn bags for yourself.
  2. Choose a soft fabric and cut it into an 8-inch-wide by 44-inch-long piece
  3. Fold the cut fabric piece in half (lengthwise), making it 8 inches by 22 inches, and sew it either with a machine or by hand. Once sewn, turn the bag inside out.
  4. Leave the cloth side facing outside, try folding the open edge, and press leaving a mark
  5. Now, sew the fabric down a straight line from the middle.
  6. Start filling the ag with corns (clean dried) and stop once you have filled 2/3
  7. Sew or pin the open top of the bag to close it.
Corn bag for heat therapy

How does heat therapy reduce cramps?

Whether talking about the period or muscular cramps, heat therapy relaxes the muscles, normalizes them, and increases blood flow. Such changes in muscles and blood ease pain and stiffness. Knee pain and back pain can also be considerably reduced by using heating pads.


 Heat therapy has several uses in medical, psychological, emotional, physical, and therapeutic healing. The proper use of heat therapy can help you get rid of pain, stiffness, and immobility but always be careful as heat is a dangerous thing to be exposed to.

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