Heat therapy, or thermotherapy, is a non-invasive pain relief method that uses warmth to reduce pain by opening up blood vessels and increasing blood flow, oxygen and nutrients to muscles and joints. This natural treatment is ideal for seniors because it’s easy to use, fairly inexpensive and quickly alleviates discomfort in the joints—a common medical complaint among those of retirement age. There are several ways heat therapy can eliminate or lessen muscle and joint aches. Seniors should choose a method that best fits their personal preferences and medical needs.
Before using a heating pad, check for swelling around the afflicted area. If swelling is present, use an ice pack to bring down the swelling prior to applying heat. A heating pad should never be applied on open wounds, stitches or for more than 20 minutes as this can increase discomfort and cause burns, suggests the University of Rochester.
A few minutes in a hot tub spa can do more than melt the stresses of life away. In fact, Livestrong states that a hot tub’s warm water loosens muscle tightness while its massaging jets apply direct pressure to sore muscles. Additionally, water, hot or cold, makes mobility easier due to its buoyancy. Hot Tub Works recommends practicing light exercises in a hot tub to lessen arthritis pain and improve flexibility. These range of motion and stretching workouts are best done slowly and rhythmically for five to 15 minutes.
Using steamed towels to relieve joint pain is an inexpensive method that can easily be done at home. Although steaming towels might not be a strong enough painkiller on their own, pairing this heat therapy with medications is a great way to further lessen joint pain in seniors. Heated gel packs or heat wraps can also be used in place of steamed towels.
Using dry heat is ideal for those who are unable to swim or are limited in their movements. Infrared saunas help the body release toxins through sweat. This heat therapy technique increases circulation and blood flow to the muscles without the need of strenuous exercise. Unlike a traditional steam sauna, an infrared sauna has lower temperatures, which allows the user to receive the benefits of a sauna for a longer period of time. Plus, the different levels of an infrared sauna are treatment based. For instance, mid-infrared levels are ideal for increasing circulation and promoting muscle relaxation, comments MindBodyGreen.
Placing smooth and flat heated stones along strategic points in the back is another way to alleviate pain using heat therapy. This unique massage is commonly used by those suffering from arthritis because of its dual healing and relaxing benefits. These warm stones are kept at a temperature that is comfortable for the client and gently massaged into the skin by the practitioner. A word of caution: seniors with rheumatoid arthritis should not use this method of heat therapy because the hot stones might produce swelling in the joint lining.