Almost 80% people suffer from back pain some time in their life. Most of us know how incapacitating it can be……..and to add to that the variety of treatments all have tried……and tested!!! And I am positive that heat as a form of treatment is way up on your list. Rather heat is one the first home remedies people use for back pain.
Types of Heat:
Heat is basically categorized as deep heat and superficial heat. This differentiation is based on the extent of penetration of heat.
Superficial heat has limitations like the penetration is up to 1 cm and it results only in mild increase in temperature. Furthermore, the penetration also decreases as there is an increase in fat content. This is commonly used as home remedy using hot water bags.
It increases blood flow and causes washing out of pain causing substances. Furthermore it relieves spasm of muscles and improves flexibility of the tissue. It has a sedative effect and helps relaxing the patient. Deep heat however can only be supplied by modalities of electrotherapy unlike superficial heat.
Transmission of Heat:
Let’s learn a little bit about the ways by which heat is transmitted. Transmission of heat (mainly deep) takes place by 3 ways namely: conduction, convention and radiation.
Conduction takes place in solids. Heat when applied to a solid object causes increase in vibration of molecules, which is then transmitted from an area of high temperature to an area of lower temperature.
Convention takes place in liquid or gas .It increases the kinetic energy of molecules which move so that the more dense fluid can take its place.
Radiation involves transmission of heat by infra red electromagnetic radiation.
Heating of certain atoms causes an electron to move to a higher energy electron shell which when returning back to its original shell releases infrared electromagnetic energy.
All above mechanisms have effects on tissues through which heat travels. That’s how it results in various therapeutic effects of heat.
Effects of Heat:
Heat when transmitted causes a rise in temperature which causes the following effects:
1) Increase in metabolism:-heating of tissues accelerates the chemical changes. As a result of this, there is an increased demand for oxygen and nutrients and also an increase in the output of waste products.
2) Increased blood supply:-As stated above, the output of waste products is increased. These contain metabolites which act on the walls of the capillaries and arterioles causing dilatation .In addition heat also has a direct effect on the blood vessels and causes dilatation. As a result, there is increased blood flow.
3) Sedative effect:-heat produces definite sedative effect.
4) Heat also induces muscle relaxation and improves the efficiency of muscle contraction.
So with all these mechanisms in action, heat relieves neck, back and joint pain very effectively!!!!
The American pain society has conducted a study which proved the application of heat in low back pain is more effective in relieving pain when compared to oral analgesics. So as you can see here heat as a measure of pain relief is proven without a doubt.
We in our clinic use electrotherapy modalities like short wave diathermy, ultrasound etc. We also use hydrocollator packs which help us before starting the therapy. In subsequent posts we will see how these modalities are useful in various conditions.
Though this article says a lot about deep heat and its effect on pain relief, we do not believe only in symptomatic treatment. Every patient who walks in our clinic will be subjected to a thorough assessment and treatment will be very patient specific.
So we hope we have given you an idea about the heat as an effective measure in back pain and look forward to your queries on this subject. Word of caution: There are many complications of continuous use of heat treatment such as desensitization, burning and discoloration and at times skin cancer if used too often and continuously. Do not resort to continuous application of hot fomentation at home without seeking proper medical advice!
Thank you and warm regards!!
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