Call us toll free: (844) 246-6287

Blog » Self-Care » Exploring the Benefits of Heat Therapy for Muscle Recovery

Exploring the Benefits of Heat Therapy for Muscle Recovery

Do you love exercising but hate the pain it causes your muscles? Consider the benefits of heat therapy in muscle recovery, like pain relief, muscle relaxation, and increased well-being. Keep reading to discover all the ways heat therapy can improve your life and the best practices for using it.

Understanding Heat Therapy

Heat therapy, also called thermotherapy, is the process of applying heat to injured or painful areas. Health specialists often use it to treat joint pain, muscle stiffness, and menstrual cramps. It’s helpful to improve muscle recovery after injury or exercise.

Your care specialist can apply heat therapy in two general ways:

  • Dry heat includes heating pads, dry saunas, and infrared sauna blankets. This is the least-used option because it doesn’t penetrate your tissue as deeply and can dehydrate your skin. However, it’s usually more accessible and portable.
  • Moist heat includes hot water bottles, baths, and steam saunas. It’s more effective because it penetrates deeply into your tissue and won’t dry out your skin so quickly. It’s most effective for heavier people.

The Science Behind Heat Therapy

When applied correctly, heat therapy relaxes your muscles, increases blood flow and oxygenation, and reduces inflammation. All these effects reduce pain and improve healing.

Heat Therapy for Muscle Recovery and Repair

Heat therapy works primarily by increasing blood circulation and delivering nutrients to your muscles. It promotes muscle recovery after exercise or injury.

Blood Circulation

When your muscle’s blood flow increases, they receive more oxygen and heal faster. It also improves your muscle’s resilience and can make them more injury-resistant. If bulking up is your goal, heat-induced blood circulation helps your muscles grow faster.

Nutrient Delivery

With the increased blood flow, your muscles receive a higher concentration of nutrients like magnesium, iron, calcium, and vitamin D. These elements reduce inflammation, help your muscles knit back together faster, and help develop a greater range of motion.

Pain Relief Through Heat Therapy

One of the most significant benefits of heat therapy is the chronic pain relief it provides. In addition to the increased blood flow, it provides an analgesic effect. In other words, it alters your perception of pain and provides a soothing relief so you don’t notice the pain so much.

It also increases flexibility and muscle relaxation, so you don’t injure yourself as frequently.

You can use heat therapy to treat the following chronic pain conditions:

  • Arthritis of any type
  • Repeat or chronic sprains and strains
  • Muscle spasms and stiffness

Heat Therapy for Stress Reduction and Relaxation

In addition to pain relief, thermotherapy can reduce stress and increase relaxation. By releasing endorphins, the heat prompts an overall feeling of well-being and grants long-lasting relaxation.

To enhance the stress-reducing effects of thermotherapy, add these techniques to your routine:

  • Massage: In addition to releasing endorphins, skin-to-skin contact releases oxytocin, a neurotransmitter essential in social relaxation, bonding, and feeling secure.
  • Mediation and breathing: Mindfulness and meditation, especially when paired with intentional breathing exercises, reduce stress and promote increased healing.
  • Light exercise: Light, low-impact exercises like yoga, walking, or low-speed biking further increases your blood flow and enhance the effects of heat therapy.
  • Reduce lifestyle stress: If you can achieve a good work-life balance, engage in activities you enjoy more often, and maintain healthy relationships, you can reduce your overall stress in life and prolong the benefits of heat therapy.

Types of Heat Therapy and Their Applications

Therapists typically apply heat therapy in one of six different ways.

Hot Packs

Hot packs are an efficient and portable way to provide heat to any part of the body. You can warm them up in the microwave, and since they come in many different sizes, you can apply them either generally or target specific places on your body. They usually stay warm for around a half hour after heating.

Heating Pads

Heating pads come in both electrical and microwaveable versions. While not able to target specific areas like a hot pack, the electric versions have the advantage of staying warm as long as you maintain power.

Warm Baths

This includes most types of moist heat therapy, including steam saunas, hot tubs, and jacuzzis. They provide full-body relief and a quiet and meditative environment in which to relax.

Far Infrared Therapy

FIT uses invisible waves of heat to penetrate the deep layers of the body and slowly raise its surface temperature. FIT traces its origins back 5,000 years and resembles the effects the sun has on our bodies. If FIT isn’t an option for you, consider just getting outside in the sun for 30 minutes!

Heated Paraffin Wax

Heated wax is a great option for treating joint, hand, and foot pain. Peeling the wax off always provides a great tactile experience! You can purchase at-home paraffin baths for consistent access to the treatment.

Heat Wraps

These products usually come with an adhesive back that you can stick directly to the problem area and worn under clothing. They provide several hours of relief.

Precautions and Best Practices for Using Heat Therapy

Here are the most common risks of heat therapy and how to avoid them. Whenever you have concerns, talk to your doctor.


Warmth is better than extreme heat. Take proper precautions and always follow guidelines for safe use, heating time, and duration of application to avoid burning your skin.

Acute Application

Never apply heat to an acute injury you’ve suffered within the last three days to avoid complications. Never apply heat to an open wound. Don’t use it on locations with scars, swelling, or bruising.

Other Considerations

Never use unsupervised heat therapy if you suffer from any of the following conditions:

  • Cognitive disability
  • Hypertension or heart disease
  • Unconscious
  • Bleeding disorders such as hemophilia

Start Using Heat Therapy Today

If you want to claim the benefits of heat therapy as your own, you can start home treatments today. Always use proper precautions, and consult a professional for more chronic pain. With proper self-care, you can experience pain relief and muscle recovery.