Heat up sore muscles the winter!

Heat up sore muscles the winter!

The winter months with dry and cold weather can bring on stiff joints and muscles.  Even old injuries can be brought to surface due to the weather or increased stress causing back pain and compromised movement.  Most often an anti-inflammatory medication is suggested for the pain, but there are also other great ways to alleviate the sore joints and muscles.  These therapies include heating pads, heat wraps, hot baths, and warm gel packs that are all inexpensive and easy to apply at home.  The therapies have even been proven in medical studies to provide more pain relief than the anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDS.

How does it work?  Heat therapy can help relieve pain from tightness and muscle spasms by dilating the blood vessels and increasing the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the muscles, helping to heal the damaged tissue.  The heat also stimulates the sensory receptors in the skin, which override the pain signals to the brain.

How do I apply it?  The most convenient and easy to use method is the electric heating pad.  Although care must be taken in order to prevent burns,  this method can be extremely effective in alleviating joint and muscle pain.  It is very important to not use the heating pads if there is an immediate injury in which needs a doctor’s attention.  To prevent overheating, the temperature of the pack should be at medium and the temperature of the skin should never reach above 113 degrees Fahrenheit.  The optimal time for effective pain relief is 20-30 minutes.  Remember that if you have ay sensations of burning on the skin, remove the heating pad.

There are also great products at local stores, which contain capsicum, menthol and other herbs aimed at relieving inflammation.  If you use any medicated lotion such as the latter, do not use it at the same time as the heating pack.

Heather Wickett
NWNM Work Study

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