Pic by Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee @ freedigitalimages.net
If you've got muscle aches and pains, one of the best things that you can do to ease the pain is to apply heat.
The nice thing about heat is that it can relax overworked muscles.
When muscles become overworked, or hypertonic, then applying heat can help relax the fibres.
You can buy reusable heat pads online from around £5 which you pop in the microwave to heat up, then apply to the affected area.
A cheaper alternative that's at least as good is old fashioned hot water bottle.
Which ever you choose make sure:
Heat dilates (widens, or open up) the blood vessels, helping with blood flow through the affected areas. Blood contains nutrients needed to heal.
Heat is also great for muscle spasm (like mild whiplash) when your muscles effectively go into protective mode and "splint" to protect the spine or joints. Gentle, repeated application of heat can tease the muscles into relaxing.
Heat can be used on any sore muscle areas, but the shoulders and lower back are particularly popular "hot spots" (forgive the pun).
For those of us who spend a lot of our days sitting at a desk or driving in a car, we often have our shoulders hunched rather than hanging comfortably down at our sides. This means that the muscles which pull the shoulders upwards (especially the levator scapula and upper trapezius) can become permanently tense.
Draping a hot water bottle across your shoulder for 20 minutes in front of the TV might do you the world of good.
Similarly, if you get suffer from back ache, try putting a hot water bottle behind your back for 20 mins. Just one word of caution though - remember that the heat will relax the muscles, so whatever you do don't overstretch your back afterwards!
Pic by Ambro @ freedigitalphotos.net
Heat doesn't just work on muscles - some joint pain, including arthritis, can be relieved by heat.
Apart from increasing the circulation of blood in the ligaments, heat decreases the viscosity of the synovial fluid in the joint capsule - in plain English, the fluid that lubricates the joints flows more easily, decreasing pain.
Heat can be a great source of comfort to tired and over-tense muscles and tendons, but there are some occasions when you really shouldn't use heat (use ice instead!):
If your muscles need more than heat to help your muscles, then as ever, give me a call.