The Power of Heat Therapy in Physical Therapy

jaw pain

Physical Therapy Prescription: Heat Therapy. Unleashing Pain Relief and Accelerated Healing


Heat therapy is a popular treatment used by physical therapists to reduce pain, inflammation, and swelling. It has been used for centuries as a healing modality, and today it is an important component of physical therapy. Heat works by increasing blood flow and circulation in the injured area, which can lead to faster healing time while reducing pain and stiffness. In this article, we will discuss how therapists use heat as a therapeutic tool and explore the science behind it, its benefits and uses, procedures, risks and side effects, comparisons with other techniques, training, and qualifications for practitioners.

What is Heat Therapy?

Heat therapy is the application of heat to an injured area in order to reduce pain and promote healing. Heat increases circulation by widening blood vessels and releasing endorphins. This helps to reduce pain, stiffness, and inflammation in the injured area. Heat can be applied through electric heating pads, hot water bottles, heat wraps, or other methods. Heat therapy has been used for centuries, but its use in physical therapy is relatively recent.

The Science Behind Heat Therapy

Heat affects the body on a cellular level. When heat is applied to an injured area, the increase in temperature causes more oxygen and nutrients to be delivered to the cells. This increases healing time and decreases pain. Heat also increases blood flow, which helps reduce inflammation and swelling. The increased circulation can result in the release of endorphins, which are natural pain relievers produced by the body.

Benefits and Uses of Heat Therapy in Physical Therapy

Heat therapy is used by physical therapists as an effective way to treat pain, inflammation, stiffness, and swelling. It can be used to relax tight muscles, reduce spasms, increase the range of motion, and decrease pain. Heat can also help improve circulation in the injured area. This helps speed up healing time while reducing discomfort. Heat therapy can also reduce muscle tension and spasms, allowing more freedom of movement.

The Heat Therapy Procedure

The procedure for applying heat varies depending on the type of heat being used. Generally, electric pads or wraps are best applied 15-20 minutes at a time before taking a break. Hot water bottles should be wrapped in a towel to prevent burns, and should be applied for 10-15 minutes at a time. Heat should not be applied directly to the skin, as this could cause burns or other injuries.

Risks and Side Effects

Heat therapy can produce some risks and side effects if not used correctly. It is important to follow all instructions for the use of heat provided by your physical therapist. Overheating can cause burns, so it is important not to apply heat for longer than the recommended length of time. Heat therapy can also make some conditions worse, such as if you have poor circulation or a skin condition. It is important to speak with your physical therapist if you are unsure about whether or not heat should be used on an area.

Comparisons with Other Techniques

Heat therapy is a good option to provide relief from pain and improve inflammation. It can be used in combination with other techniques, such as stretching or massage, to maximize the benefits of physical therapy. Heat can also be helpful for relieving joint stiffness which might result from cold weather or intense exercise.


Heat therapy is an effective option for physical therapists to use in treatment plans. It can be used safely and is effective at reducing pain and inflammation. Heat therapy should be used according to the instructions of your physical therapist, as overheating can result in burns or other injuries.