It has been well-established in the medical field that physical therapy is an effective method of managing conditions characterized by pain and stiffness, especially those involving the musculoskeletal systems. Of the hundreds of disorders falling under this category, perhaps one of the most common is chronic pain in the lower back.
As many patients suffering from lower back would attest, their conditions have been managed successfully through physical therapy. These conditions may have been addressed through active therapy which involves exercises or passive therapy which involves devices or specific types of modalities. One such modality that has been shown to be very beneficial is heat therapy.
What is Heat Therapy?
Also known as thermotherapy, heat therapy may be defined as the application of heat to the body for therapeutic purposes. This type of therapy does not only provide comfort and relaxation, but has been claimed to be effective in the relief of pain and the healing of numerous conditions including lower back pain. Heat therapy may be applied in different forms that include the use of heating pads, heat wraps, hot baths, and warm gel packs.
Benefits of Heat Therapy
Pain in the lower back may be experienced when circulation becomes restricted due to the tension in muscle and soft tissues around the spine which may have been caused by strains or over-exertions. Through the use of heat, this pain due to muscle spasm and tightness in the back may be relieved. Blood vessels in the muscles surrounding the lower spine are dilated when heat therapy is applied. This results to an increase in the flow of oxygen and nutrients thereby allowing the healing or repair of the damaged tissues.
Heat therapy also stimulates the sensory receptors found in the skin. When these are stimulated, pain signals to the brain are decreased, which means a reduction of the sensation of pain and discomfort. The stretching of the soft tissues around the spine is also facilitated by the application of heat. With the muscles, connective tissues, and adhesion stimulated, there will be a decrease in the stiffness and discomfort resulting from the injury. And when the proper exercises are performed, flexibility and range of motion may be regained.
Advantages of Heat Therapy
Heat therapy has been considered by healthcare providers as a very advantageous form of treating back pains. Except for minor irritations of the skin, there have been no reports of side effects or complications associated with heat therapy. And for the same effectiveness as other physical therapy modalities, heat therapy is very inexpensive. It does not require sophisticated devices and can easily be applied.