By Dr. Masoud Shamaeizadeh
One of the most frequently asked questions in my office is about the use of heat vs. cold to treat an injury. In this post I'm going to cover the benefits of heat modalities on the injured body.
The purpose of heat is to increase blood circulation in the body; because most of the healing in the body involves blood and because blood has ability to repair and clean up the injury site, it is important to know that every time any part of our body gets heated, it increases blood flow to cool it down.
The first question we should be asking is when to use the heat modality.
Because our body is created to heal itself by design, the first 24 to 48 hours our body's injured part has a lot of blood presence and the use heat could actually make it worse, so I don't recommend to use heat in the first 24 to 48 hour while the injury still acute. I do recommend the use of cold and I will go into more detail in Part 2 of this post.
The second question we should be asking is what type of heat modality to use.
If your injury involves muscles, the best heat modalities are the one that make use of water such as a heat shower, bath tub or Jacuzzi, so that the muscles stay hydrated. If your injury involves joints, dry heat such as microwave heating bags is okay .
The third question we should be asking is how high should the temperature be and how deep should the heat go.
The amount of heat applied should be to your toleration so that it does not harm you or burn you. However, the deeper the heat modality can go, the better healing power it has on both muscles and joints. Unfortunately most home use modalities don't go very deep. The deepest heat is up to 1/4 inch into your body and that is the best case scenario. However, many chiropractic offices offer short-wave diathermy modality that can go as deep as 1 1/4 inch into your body. This type of heat modality has huge benefits such as increasing the joint range of motion and accelerating the healing for the muscles.