They say: Heat packs are not safe to use during pregnancy!
False! It is true that in general, pregnant women should avoid raising their core body temperature as it might cause miscarriage or birth defects. However, heat packs only affect one part of the body and thus will not raise the body’s overall temperature significantly. If you have concerns, it is best to address them with medical professional to soothe your worries. Of course, pregnant women should still avoid using hot tubs and saunas!
They say: It’s your personal preference whether to use cold therapy or heat therapy.
False! Whether you should use cold or heat on an area depends entirely on the type of injury you’ve sustained, and using the wrong one could worsen the pain. As a general rule of thumb, heat is suitable for treating stiffness (e.g. back aches, neck aches, period pains) and cold is better for inflammation and swelling (e.g. ankle sprains, muscle tear, bruises). Both therapy methods work on the basis of controlling the amount of blood that reaches the affected area – heat expands blood vessels and cold constricts them.
You could even use a combination of both! To heal sprains, Mayo Clinic recommends applying ice for the first three days after the injury to numb the pain and reduce swelling, then applying heat to increase blood flow and relax the muscles.
They say: You can put heat packs in the microwave/oven to reheat them.
False! For one-time-use heat patches, especially those that contain iron, you should not put them in the microwave! Reheating will only work for reusable heat packs such as those filled with uncooked rice.
They say: Heat therapy is not effective – it is simply psychological!
False! Other than the psychological calming effect that heat has on our bodies, it also relieves pain in other ways. Aches and stiff muscles are caused by the contraction of our muscles. Therefore, when heat is applied onto our bodies, the muscles expand and relax, thus lessening the aches. In addition, heat expands blood vessels so that more oxygen and nutrients can be transported to the affected area to aid recovery.
They say: It is harmful to apply heat to your body for too long.
False! There are concerns that prolonged exposure to heat will be harmful as it may cause skin irritation, blisters or even burns. However, you can avoid this by simply monitoring the heat level that the pack is emitting, and by removing it from your body for a few seconds every hour. This gives your skin the chance to rest, and for the hot air that’s trapped between the pack and skin to escape. You should definitely avoid using a heat pack while sleeping as it is difficult to monitor the temperature then!
They say: Applying heat can help you to lose weight.
False! When it comes to burning fat, heat seems to be a logical choice right? Unfortunately, there are no scientific studies that can back this claim up, so do take it with a pinch of salt! Lowering your carbohydrate intake and increasing exercise are definitely much more effective proven ways to lose your fat.
Do you know other myths regarding heat patches or heat therapy that you need busting? Leave a comment to let us know and we will tackle it in another article!
Wan Yi Koh
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