Last time, I discussed the use of Cryotherapy to aid healing, today I would like to discuss the use of heat. As many of you will know who have had a full body massage treatment with me, I often incorporate hot stones into my treatment. And some of my readers will have heard me say they should use a wheat bag or cherry stone bag or some other type of hot pack.
The simple reason why I do this is that most people I treat have one or more knots.
A knot is created when a muscle contracts for a sustained period of time and looses its ability to stretch or relax. A simple "muscle knot" will deprive an area of blood, oxygen, nutrients and a thyroid hormone called T3. When a muscle has been deprived of T3 even for a few minutes it will lose its ability to relax, creating the perfect conditions for inflammation and fibrosis (the creation of adhesions). A reduction in the partial pressure of oxygen (to 55 mm of Hg) due to restriction of blood to an area in that muscle will start the inflammatory process that causes the fibrotic condition (adhesion) to proliferate. In the hands of a skilled massage practitioner the knot and any adhesions are located and ideally removed but at least reduced. With the restoration of normal muscle motion, pain is decreased or eliminated, joint motion improves, and normal or near normal activities can be resumed.
So heat is often incorporated into a massage treatment treatment because it
Increases blood supply to an area of the body
It warms up the muscle tissues to allow them to stretch (relax)
It reduces muscle spasm
and all the above help to release muscle knots and relax tense muscles. So the use of heat helps to create that feeling of "looseness" that most of my clients report after having a massage.