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NonDrug Pain Management Ideas: Heat Therapy

Heat therapy is another non-drug intervention that can be useful in pain management.  The application of heat is especially useful for muscle spasm, chronic pain (especially back pain) and arthritis, and sometimes, fibromyalgia.

The application of heat relaxes muscles and increases blood flow in the affected area.Before applying, be sure to check skin surface to see that it is dry and free of cuts or sores.  Do NOT apply heat to skin that is damaged. After treatment check for purplish-red skin or hives, which would indicate that the treatment was too intense.


Heat can be applied as either dry heat or moist heat.  The difference between these two methods is that moist heat tends to penetrate the tissues more deeply than dry heat.

Heat should be applied for at least 15 or 20 minutes to obtain some level of pain relief.

Here is a simple method to make your own hot/cold pack:
1) Take a clean sock and fill it halfway with plain dry rice.  Be sure NOT to use instant rice.
    Tie the open end of the sock so it is tightly shut.
2) To use as a cold pack: place sock in a freezer for 45 minutes. To use as a hot pack,
     microwave the rice filled sock for 1-2 minutes.
3) When ready to use, shake the sock to distribute the heat/cold.
4) Apply sock to area for 20 minutes, then allow the area to rest for 20 minutes.

Other types of heat therapy include deep heat therapy provided by ultrasound, whirlpool, and paraffin dips.

If you are interested in using heat therapy in your pain management regimen, discuss with your health care team before proceeding.

References:
Kentucky Pain Management Services
Heat Therapy for Fibromyalgia

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