Muscle recovery is a hot topic (literally) with lots of suggestions, hypotheses, and opinions as to what is the most effective way to ease strained and sore muscles most effectively. One school of thought suggests that applying continuous heat to an area can be more effective at reducing pain than medication. There are a number of reasons why applying a low, gentle heat to sore or strained muscles can be an effective way to reduce discomfort. Anti-inflammatory medication has in recent years been proven to have potential long term negative effects on the heart and other organs not to mention being proven to cause stomach ulcers when over consumed. So much evidence to this end has emerged in fact, that in the UK, the long standing anti-inflammatory drug Diclofenac has been removed for common prescription use by the NHS after showing signs of causing long term heart complications.
Heat works well in pain relief applications because it offers an alternative stimulus to the pain itself. This means that the nerves within your body react more to the heat than to the injury. This reduces how you feel the pain making it far less noticeable. There is fantastic evidence supporting this pain relief theory and it seems to be something that can have a really beneficial effect.
Heat applied to sore muscles also promotes better blood flow and increases circulation to the affected area. This is extremely important, especially if you are trying to relax muscles following an intensive workout. Increasing blood flow to muscles helps to relieve the buildup of lactic acid trapped in the muscle tissue. The lactic acid produced during exercise is often the primary cause for aches and pains within your muscles immediately post-workout. Therefore, heat is a very useful tool when you’re feeling the burn after the gym (pardon the pun). Aside from relieving lactic acid build up, increased blood flow will also allow the supply of oxygen and other nutrients to the muscle tissue, which will help the body to begin the healing process sooner.
So, heat may be an excellent way to relax muscles but what is the best way to apply such heat? You ideally want to apply heat to the affected area continuously for around 20 minutes at a time. A heat pad, hot water bottle, or soaking the area in hot water are common tools – the truMedic InstaShiatsu™ Plus Neck and Back Massager with Heat is also ideal.
The optional heat setting helps to gradually warm your muscles, while also delivering relaxing massage to further stimulate the tissue and aid muscle recovery. The other reason to use an Instashiatsu™ is that it is much easier to place on an affected area and provide direct relief than using something less clinical like a hot water bottle. It is also more convenient, as the affected individual doesn’t need to heat their entire body via a hot bath or sauna if there simply isn’t time or that option available.
Next time your muscles ache or hurt, whether it be from an intense gym session or just day to day aches and pains, try using heat therapy.