8 Essential Ways to Relieve and Heal Low Back Pain with Heat Therapy
The most significant benefits of hyperthermia for back pain are achieved by:
1. Hyperthermia accelerates the healing process
Hyperthermia promotes healing by increasing blood flow to the muscles of the lower back. Increased blood flow provides more oxygen, white blood cells, platelets, and essential nutrients—all of which help repair damaged tissue to heal.
Sensory nerves respond to applied heat by releasing chemical messengers that dilate local blood vessels and increase blood flow. 1 Both the applied heat and the increased blood flow help the skin temperature rise to match the body's core temperature. After the skin reaches core temperature, the blood absorbs the excess heat and protects the skin from burns.
Hyperthermia dilates blood vessels (vasodilation), which increases blood flow. This can improve blood circulation in areas of pain or stiffness.
Heat is also transferred from the surface of the skin deep into the muscles and promotes blood circulation into the muscles. During this process, heat must pass through the fatty layer under the skin, which can be a barrier to effective hyperthermia in people with thicker layers of fat.
2. Heat Calms Painful Muscle Spasms
Most forms of low back pain involve some element of lower back muscle spasms. Although it may sound mild, muscle spasms can be severe and painful and are actually a common cause of emergency room visits.
Due to muscle spasms, blood circulation is restricted and pain signals are sent to the brain. Heat therapy can help relieve tightness in the lower back by restoring circulation, relaxing tense muscles, and reducing associated pain.
3. Heat reduces pain from stiffness
Heat application helps stretch the soft tissues around the spine, including muscles, connective tissue, and adhesions. Therefore, conventional hyperthermia for the back can often provide:
Reduce stiffness and injury
When lower back stiffness is relieved, overall comfort begins to emerge, and daily activities seem to become less difficult.
4. Heat makes therapeutic exercise more tolerable
Physical therapy, stretching, and exercise are basic components of most low back pain treatment programs. Heat therapy is usually applied to the lower back immediately before physical therapy and is recommended before exercise and stretching.
In addition, frequent heat therapy at home can make it easier to complete a workout, between 7 sessions and long after physical therapy. By promoting consistent exercise, heat compresses are bound to improve the overall results of physical therapy for neck or back pain.
5. Heat interrupts the transmission of pain signals
The gating theory of pain involves sensory receptors located on nerve endings. Receptors compete with each other to reach the brain, and one set of receptors that activate may mute or block another. Hyperthermia activates heat-sensitive calcium channels, which can directly block pain receptors or stimulate other sensory receptors to indirectly reduce pain.
6. Heat produces relaxation chemicals
Hyperthermia can reduce mental stress, as shown by cortisol levels in the blood,8 and can also reduce oxidative stress on a chemical level. The relaxing effect of heat is why so many spa treatments employ thermal applications such as hot stones, hot towels, and hot baths.
7. Heat boosts immunity
The increase in body temperature caused by hyperthermia (external heat) mimics the function of fever (internal heat), which stimulates the immune system to respond at multiple levels.
Research shows that the regular use of certain heat treatments can provide:
Activated immune system. A hot bath activates monocytes, a type of white blood cell that helps remove dead cells, fight infection and release more cytokines, 9 is a small protein that acts as a signal between immune cells and other cells in the body .
Inflammatory markers were reduced. Frequent visits to the sauna can lead to lower levels of C-reactive protein in the blood. 10 Low levels of this protein indicate a strong immune system. Regular balneotherapy (hot baths with mineral water) can reduce levels of interleukin 1 and leukotriene B4,11 both proteins involved in inflammation.
Long-term effects of hyperthermia include reducing the low-grade inflammation commonly found in chronic pain. The short-term effect of heat application on damaged, infected or swollen tissue is increased inflammation. For this reason, avoid topical hyperthermia immediately after injury (usually avoid hyperthermia for the first 48 hours and use cold compresses to help relieve acute inflammation).
8. Calories reduce drug dependence
Heat therapy is more effective and less expensive than over-the-counter pain relievers. 12 The low risk of side effects is one of the main advantages of hyperthermia. Low back pain tends to be frequent, so treating every pain with pain medication can lead to drug dependence. Hyperthermia offers a valuable alternative to pharmacotherapy for chronic low back pain.
Heat compresses are the treatment of choice for individuals who wish to relieve pain in its natural form and work on multiple levels at the same time - healing the body, soothing muscles, promoting exercise and relieving stress.
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