We all know we should move more. Unfortunately, for many of us, pain or stiffness make staying active a challenge. Injuries, chronic pain, work schedules, and many other obstacles stand in our way. Moist heat therapy using a microwavable heat wrap like a Thermalon heating pad is an easy way to help you feel better so you can move more.
The Pain Cycle
It is common for an injury to start the pain cycle . Once we are in pain or injured, we fear re-injury and worsening pain. With both acute injury and chronic pain (persistent pain that lasts after the injury has healed), it is common to avoid all activities that hurt. Pain causes your body to compensate- sometimes in unhealthy ways.
You may begin to move differently, such as limping or hunching over, to avoid pain. Unfortunately, changes in your posture and movement can cause further injury and worsening pain. You can envision these changes in your body’s movement patterns as being like the creases left behind after folding a piece of paper. Once folded, the paper then bends more easily along the crease line when moving.
Similarly, once pain changes the way you move your body, you are more likely to keep moving in that unhealthy or uneven movement pattern. Maladaptive movement patterns can make your pain worse, prevent healing, and make you avoid moving. This downward spiral of worsening pain and decreased activity is called the pain cycle.
Even short-term changes in your mobility, such as one week spent lying in bed if hospitalized for a medical condition, causes significant loss of strength, fitness, and muscle. In one week of complete bed rest, your body may lose up to 3 pounds of leg muscle mass. Decreasing fitness and strength (called deconditioning) makes returning to prior activity levels harder. It also puts you at risk of injuring yourself. Without exercise and movement, the back muscles and spinal structures become deconditioned (weak and stiff) and less able to support the back. Deconditioning can lead to further trauma and strain, which can cause additional pain. That is one reason why it is so important to keep moving.
Breaking the Pain Cycle With Moist Heat
Just like a car engine runs better when it is warmed up, warming up your body helps you move more easily and with less pain. If it hurts to move less, you will move more. That is why applying a heated compress to a painful joint or muscle is one of the oldest, easiest, cheapest, and safest forms of complementary therapy. Regardless of your age or fitness level, we all are familiar with stiff joints and muscles. Using a microwaveable heat wrap to help “jumpstart” your body is one way to ensure you will move more. A moist heat back or neck wrap at the start of your day can help bring blood flow to sore areas, increase flexibility, and make it easier for you to jump out of bed in the morning.
What about those exercises your physical therapist gave you to do as part of your post-operative recovery plan after back, knee, or another kind of surgery? Moist heat can reduce muscle spasms, decrease joint stiffness, and make soft tissue more flexible. Warming up those joints with a Thermalon heating pad before you do your exercises will make them hurt less and you’ll be able to get more out of your exercise session.
The same is true for other painful conditions such as sciatica. While it may seem counterintuitive, exercise is more effective in relieving sciatica pain than bed rest or staying active with daily physical activities. Using a reusable warm compress before exercise or physical activities or after waking up in the morning will help to loosen up the soft tissues and improve spine flexibility.
The Arthritis Foundation recommends using moist heat to self-treat chronic arthritic pain and care for your joints. Thermalon’s moist heat back, neck and shoulder wraps allow you to warm up stiff arthritic joints with time-tested effective, natural therapy. The same MediBeads medi-bead technology in Thermalon heat compresses works wonders on painful arthritis in hands and feet. If you have a flare of your arthritic symptoms or a sudden onset of swelling and redness from overdoing it, try switching to Thermalon cold wraps for a few days.
Moist heat therapy is an effective and complementary therapy for the more than 30,000 children and teens in the United States with juvenile arthritis. Kids can stay more active, feel better, and have to take less medicine when they are able to ease joint pain with heat therapy. You can help unwind the pain cycle, make moving more feel better, and proactively live your better life.