Published: 11/28/2013 - Updated: 02/22/2016
Our body has a mechanism of temperature regulation, a process that contributes to preserving life. However, heat can be used to treat certain diseases and ailments.
Heat is an external agent that has been used as a health-promoting resource. Thermotherapy is the act of applying heat which raises the temperature above 37°C; it is useful for treating trauma and rheumatic processes, as well as providing pain relief.
How does heat therapy work?
The application of heat is spread from one object to another, through different mechanisms, thus raising the temperature to produce therapeutic effects.
For the source to be considered a heat transmitter, it must stand at least 36°C temperature, and achieve a maximum of 50°C, depending on the sensitivity to heat of the individual person.
Benefits of Heat Therapy
- Relieves pain
- Decreases joint stiffness and scarring
- Reduces swelling due to fluid retention (edema)
- Helps reduce cramps
- It is antispasmodic, thus relaxes the soft muscles of the gastrointestinal system and combat colic
- Combats menstrual cramps
- When applied on the skin it provokes an increase in blood flow, leading to increased oxygenation and produces an anti-aging effect
- Promotes sweating which stimulates the elimination of toxins.
Mechanisms of thermotherapy
It consists of spreading the heat of objects with higher temperature (thermal agent) at the lower temperature (the body) . Examples are electric blankets, pillows, sand, hot water bottles, hot patches, and even semi agents such as clay, wax, etc.
Recommendations: These are useful for muscle aches and to combat the cold. Clays and muds are also used in beauty salons for skin treatment to relieve pain and produce sedation, as well as to treat rheumatism, bone aches and muscle pain.
Heat is transferred through liquids, here hydrotherapy works using steam baths, saunas, etc.
Other forms of energy are converted into heat. As an ultrasound where mechanical energy produces friction, which, in turn is converted into heat and high frequencies.
Recommendation: It is used mostly for kinesiology, rehabilitation treatment, sprains and joint stiffness. It is also used in postsurgical cosmetic surgery to improve to swelling and bruising due to liquid retention. In aesthetic therapies it is also used to combat cellulite and localised adiposity.
The high frequency is used to improve circulation, especially in your arms and legs. In cosmetics, it is used to combat acne and facials because they eliminate microorganisms from the skin.
This is a method of heat transfer by means of electromagnetic waves. Devices with infrared radiation are used with a control for adjusting the intensity. It is applied locally with the use of lamps at a distance of between 20 and 25 inches to the body for around 10 to 20 minutes. This treatment is carried out regularly.
Recommended: used in kinesiology, massage and other treatments that involve some type of rehabilitation. In aesthetic treatments, it is used for the removal of localized fat. However, this is subject to professional evaluation since it can cause muscle and skin sagging. This method should not be used on facial skin because it can cause enlarged pores.
Ultrasound and radio frequencies are usually those who come with more warnings attached: It is not recommended to apply to skin with rosacea, if there are burns or if the patient has high skin sensitivity. It should not be applied in areas where there is an acute febrile or inflammatory malignancy.
This therapy is not recommended for patients with cardiovascular disorders, and should not be applied directly on the sexual reproduction glands or abdomen of women during their menstrual period or while pregnant. Avoid use in patients with metal implants in the area to be treated, with a pacemaker or an intrauterine device containing metal. Therapy should be discontinued if there is any discomfort.
Sauna treatment is not recommended for people with heart or circulatory conditions and in general should not be used for people with rosacea.
Infrared radiation is not recommended for people suffering from circulatory, skin and rosacea disorders.