For a long time, early medical interventions involve use of two energies – the hot and cold energy. Focusing on the hot energy, thermal therapy has been widely used for various medical cases in aide for better blood circulation and relaxation of the muscles.
The heat felt from application the thermal therapy releases the stiffened muscles as well as good circulation on the surrounding organs thus promoting good functioning. Physiologically, heat agents serve as:
- Natural analgesic or pain reliever
- Muscle relaxant
- Increased metabolism
- Sedative effects
The mechanism of heat as an analgesic can be explained by the gate theory and release of endorphins. The release of endorphins may block the pain sensation before it is transmitted to the nervous system. Heat as a muscle relaxant affects the muscle fibers by increasing blood concentration on these parts of the body reducing the stiffened muscles and joints. When it comes to metabolism, heat promotes dilatation of the arteries increasing the pressure and flow of the blood. Oxygen and nutrients enter the body rapidly through metabolism.
Heat is medically considered an aged solution to muscle pains; recent studies have also found out that it can even cure cancer. Detoxification and regeneration of cells have been also discovered to be happening with heat is applied. Thermal therapy came about after numerous studies or using heat as a part of treatment modalities. Thermal therapy is also a method of choice for medical practitioners since it is non-invasive and non-pharmaceutical. Application of thermal therapy is only done by trained medical personnel. Thermal clinics are even rampant nowadays as they boast the beneficial effects of heat as detoxification, rejuvenation and relaxation technique.
Thermal therapy may come in many forms:
1. Ultrasound – The thermal effect of ultrasound is geared towards rapid wound healing. Ultrasound waves are sound waves applied to the human body making the molecules of the tissues move or vibrate. With this rapid movement, the reconstruction of cell and cell repair is rapid compared to normal healing process.
2. Phonophoresis – Corticosteroid therapy can give its anti-inflammatory effect now without even passing the kidneys. Through the process of phonophoresis, corticosteroids are mixed with ultrasound gel; the ultrasound is then used to apply the mixture over the affected tissue.
3. Light Therapy – Rubber pads have been used to transmit low heat to provide muscle relaxation, tissue repair and rehabilitation.
Thermal therapy must be taken with proper caution, as it may injure the surrounding tissues. The elderly are more prone to such skin injury or burns since the skin lacked moisture and ability to repair itself rapidly. This type of therapy must be applied only after prescription from a licensed physician is made. Through the prescription, proper amount of heat, time of exposure and its frequency are discussed.