Heat works well for chronic muscle tension and spasm as well as tight and stiff joints, because it relaxes, sooths nerves and increases circulation. The most common applications of heat are thermophore, foot baths, steam inhalation, and full body baths.
If you have visited my clinic, chances are you have experienced my thermophore. A thermophore is an electric moist-heat pad that is primarily used for chronic pain, muscle spasm and tight fascia (a type of connective tissue). The main effects from thermophore use are increased circulation, sedates nerves (= decreased pain), as well as it warms and relaxes muscles. All you have to do for this application is place the thermophore on the desired area, turn it on, and relax for about 20 minutes. Although more expensive than a standard heating pad, a thermophore is well worth the extra money and will last you for years (my last clinic one lasted 10 years).
Foot baths have numerous applications, but a warm foot bath will increase your body’s circulation; help with sinus problems, chest congestion, and chronic sleep disturbances. This application of hydrotherapy is really easy to do. Grab a bucket big enough to fit both your feet, fill with warm water, immerse your feet past ankles, and relax for 5-20 minutes. Make sure to dry your feet off after and put on socks to avoid becoming chilled.
If you have a cold, sinus infection or other respiratory ailments, steam inhalation is what you need. They increase the blood flow to your face and chest, eases congestion, and loosens mucus. To do a steam inhalation fill a large bowl half full with boiling water, place your head over the bowl, and cover the bowl, your head and shoulders with a large towel. Close your eyes, relax and breath. Inhale the steam for up to 20 minutes, taking “air” breaks when necessary. If desired, you can add essential oils to steam inhalations.
Lastly, but probably most relaxing, are full body baths. To get the maximum relaxation from a bath, the temperature should be between 36-38. A bath that is too hot can actually excite the nervous system instead of relaxing it. You can change the effects of a bath by adding Epsom salts, essential oils or by changing the temperature of the water.
Temperature can have a big impact on how effective a treatment is. Warm treatments should use water that is 36-38 degrees for optimal therapeutic results, and a hot treatment is usually between 39-42 degrees. Your body’s temperature changes over the course of a day, this means that some applications of hydrotherapy are best done at different times. Warm treatments are best done early to mid-evening to help encourage relaxation, and foot baths are best done early in the morning or late in the evening.
So sit back, relax and allow the amazing effects of water to help ease your aches and pains away.