This Hot pack should be comfortably WARM but not HOT….
Would you believe me if I told you they drilled us to say that at PTA school? It was the most bizarre thing, especially because I don’t think valuable therapy time should be wasted with you sitting or laying on a hot pack… which is why I am going to show you how to make your own. BUT, I digress.
If you like heat to ease your pain, you are not alone. Much like using ice there is a bevy of do’s and don’ts. I’d like to free those of you in persisting pain from those rules.
Here are the rules…. Ready?
If it makes you feel better, use it. If it doesn’t make you feel better, don’t use it. Could it really be that simple?! Yes, actually it can.
As I explained to our ice loving friends here,
When you have a preference for something, your nervous system usually shares that preference. So, since we are trying to calm the nervous system down, you get to use the thing that feels soothing and relaxing to you. Picking the thing you hate, the thing that makes you feel tense and irritable, probably isn’t the best way to help decrease threat to the nervous system and improve your pain.
Research has indicated that hot or cold are equal when used for decreasing pain I love research like this because it lets you choose. Since neither one is better or worse at reducing pain – use whatever makes YOUR pain more tolerable.
Too much of a good thing
As with most things, too much of a good thing can be … well… not so good. I think of my own love for the sun and how in High school I stayed out in the sun at the ocean on my spring break and too much of that good thing ended in an epic sunburn. We call this “dosing”. So remember, 10-20 min of heat is good. Three hours of heat, not so good, it’s too much. Learn from my overdose lesson. Shorter is better.
Amy’s rules for using heat on pain
- If it causes more pain – stop using it
- WARM, not scalding, not HOT, not able to roast a marshmallow.
- 15-20 minutes of heat, that’s all. Too much heat can cause metabolic reactions that just are not helpful to decreasing pain.
- Let the tissue return to room temperature (about an hour) before reapplying heat.
When NOT to use heat
- Deep-vein thrombosis
- Peripheral-vascular disease
- Open wounds
- Severe cognitive impairment
- You can’t feel the heat (neuropathy or sensory changes)
- Areas that are already swollen
- You don’t like it
Here is how to make a moist hot pack
All you need is a sock and rice.
We added essential oils for a fragrance.
Heating up your new hot pack
Heat up a cup of water with the sock 30 secs at a time until you get a warm sock. Do not wet the sock! You want warm rice, not cooked rice!
Enjoy the warmth and relax.
Dehghan, Morteza, and Farinaz Farahbod. “The Efficacy of Thermotherapy and Cryotherapy on Pain Relief in Patients with Acute Low Back Pain, A Clinical Trial Study.” Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research : JCDR 8.9 (2014): LC01–LC04. PMC. Web. 7 June 2018.
Garra, G, et al. “Heat or Cold Packs for Neck and Back Strain: a Randomized Controlled Trial of Efficacy.” Acad Emerg Med, U.S. National Library of Medicine, May 2010, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20536800.
Jeoung Hee Kim, Seung Chul Lhim, Sung Woo Roh, Sun Jin Lee, Young Mi Ko, Yeo Ok Kim, Yong Soon Shin. (2016) Effects of Sequential Application of Superficial Cold and Heat on Pain, Patient Satisfaction with Pain Control, Comfort Level and Subjective Response after Spine Surgery. Journal of Korean Academy of Fundamentals of Nursing 23:2, pages 184-193.
Malanga, Gerard & Yan, Ning & Stark, Jill. (2014). Mechanisms and efficacy of heat and cold therapies for musculoskeletal injury. Postgraduate medicine. 127. 1-9. 10.1080/00325481.2015.992719.