A heating pad is a device for creating and maintaining a higher temperature on a larger or smaller part of the body. This is one of the most affordable means of physiotherapy, which can be used in any conditions: at home, in transport and even on the street. In hospitals they also use heating pads, but they do this in rare cases, using special infrared irradiators for local or general heating.
There are sources of local heat of three main types. The cheapest and most durable is a rubber tank filled with hot water, there is also an electric heating pad and salt water heaters. The last two devices exist in the form of various forms that are convenient for warming certain parts of the body (for example, sinuses of the nose, legs or feet). But, no matter what device you decide to use, you should know that there are indications and contraindications for the use of heat (they are common for all types of heating pads). If used improperly, this source of dry heat can become hazardous.
The effect of heating pads
Any source of local heat, whether it is electric, rubber or salt, has such effects due to heat:
- enhancing local metabolism, increases the rate of disposal of inflammatory products, which accelerates the healing process,
- relaxes smooth muscles (those muscles that are not subject to our consciousness, they control the lumen of the vessels, the intestines, ureter, bladder, bronchi, esophagus, pharynx and other organs). Muscle relaxation leads to an increase in the diameter of the organ whose walls contain these muscles,
- has an analgesic effect
- absorbable action
- relieves spasm of smooth muscle organs,
- it has a distracting effect, removing the "emphasis" in the form of increased blood supply from a diseased organ to a healthy one (this effect is used for arterial hypertension and cough caused by a purulent process.
Indications for use of heating pads. When, on the contrary, ice is needed
|Disease or symptom||Warmer||Ice|
|For newborns from colic||Yes, only if the pediatrician is sure that it is colic|
|Constant feeling of freezing of hands or feet||Yes||No|
|Inflammation of the lymph nodes, if it did not occur spontaneously (this may indicate a tumor) and not due to a purulent process||Yes||No|
|To prevent freezing when planning to stay in the cold||Yes||No|
|Purulent arthritis, bursitis||No||Yes|
|Pain in the abdomen arose against the background of stress, excitement or any other experiences. Not accompanied by fever, nausea, or diarrhea||Yes||No|
|Bruise, sprain, injury||From the second day onwards, if there is a decrease in edema. If it begins to grow from the third day - ice||On the first day, for 20 minutes every 3 hours|
|“Pulls” a hand, neck, leg, backache, without a rise in temperature, dizziness||Yes||No|
|Renal, biliary, or intestinal colic. In this case, there must be a firm belief that this is not purulent cholecystitis, pancreatitis, pyelonephritis or appendicitis||Yes||No|
|Low back pain, change in the nature of urine, fever||No||Yes|
|Runny nose with the appearance of light snot, nasal congestion, sneezing, increased lacrimation, redness of the eyes, after lowering the temperature with paracetamol or nurofen||Yes||No|
|Toothache, when you can see the area of the blackened tooth, pain is noted when tapping on it. No swelling on the cheek||Yes||No|
|Abdominal pain of any location, accompanied by fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea||No||Yes|
|Pain in the tooth after its removal||No||Yes|
|Joint pain, redness||No||Yes|
|Dry cough during its treatment with antibiotics and expectorants. Against the background of normal temperature||Yes||No|
|During an attack of “barking” cough or breathing with a whistling breath||Yes on the feet||No|
|During pressure rise||Yes, on the leg area so that the blood volume partially remains in the dilated veins of the legs||No|
|If, after a few days from the onset of a cold, nasal congestion intensifies, fever rises or snot reappears||No||No|
|With painful urination, in which blood may be released, but there is no back pain||Short course possible||Can|
|If, against the background of complete well-being, it is suddenly impossible to go to the toilet a little||Yes||No|
|After a stroke or encephalitis, which paralyzed one or more limbs||Yes, from 21 days, amid developing exercises for the limbs||No|
|With edema from an insect bite||No||Yes|
|If swelling and redness are noted on the body after an injection, open injury, or wound||No||Yes|
|With a local allergic reaction||No||Yes|
|For sore throat, if the ENT doctor did not see ulcers on the tonsils||From the second day, if no white “dots” appear on the tonsils||No|
|For pain in the ear||It is possible only if purulent otitis is excluded by an ENT doctor||No|
|Before the competition||Yes||No|
|Blood is flowing from the nose||No||Yes|
|Half of the head hurts, it is not accompanied by a rise in temperature||No||Yes|
|Headache, without nausea and fever, against a background of crunching in the neck and soreness when pressing on the cervical vertebrae. At the same time, the condition did not occur due to spinal cord or head injury||Yes||No|
|Before mechanical cleaning of the face on which there are no areas of redness or ulcers||Yes||No|
|With biliary dyskinesia, planned, on the recommendation of a gastroenterologist||Yes||No|
|If the nursing mother just appeared areas of hardening in the mammary glands||Yes||No|
|Vaginal bleeding in a non-pregnant||No||Yes, along with other activities and advice from a gynecologist|
The use of a salt water heater, like any other, is contraindicated in:
- Purulent process, especially if the inflamed area is inside the cavity:
- abscess or phlegmon (purulent "fusion" of subcutaneous tissue),
- acute cholecystitis, pancreatitis, colitis,
- bursitis (inflammation of the joint bag),
- purulent arthritis (inflammation of the joint itself),
- meningitis, encephalitis.
- Oncological diseases.
- In autoimmune pathologies of the thyroid gland, liver, retina, testes and other organs, protected from their own immunity by a special cellular “barrier”.
- Bleeding - external (nasal, from the wound opening, from the ear) or internal.
- Acute and sudden pain in the abdomen, head, or chest cavity.
- If a patch of skin anywhere reddened, swollen, its temperature is higher than above neighboring patches.
- In the postoperative period after any operation.
This is a very good invention, which can have a different shape: be in the form of a toy, insole, have a shape convenient for the palms, joints, or collar zone (like a salt-water “collar” hot-water bottle). The color of the polyvinyl fluoride "bag" in which the heating elements are located can also have a different color.
This device is a chemical type in which heat is generated as a result of a chemical reaction. The instruction for the salt water heater indicates that you need to press firmly, until a click, with your finger or the soft side of the pencil, on the metal switch so that the salts (sodium acetate), which were previously in a liquid state, but in the form of a supersaturated solution, react with the reagent injected inside. In this case, the metal stick (button) that you click on is the center of crystallization.
The instructions also indicate to what temperature a particular heater is heated. So, a salt heating pad for newborns, the main purpose of which is to save from colic, warms up to 50-54 degrees, some salt “insoles” for an adult's feet are heated to 80 ° C.
The advantages of such a device are that it is made of safe and non-toxic materials, it is durable and cannot cause burns, but when heated, it takes the shape of a body, and this is very convenient. Launched in the form of a toy, it allows you to create good conditions for the treatment of infants.
How to use a salt warmer:
- Press the activator button on the wide side of the metal starter, and a click should be heard - this is how the crystallization process is activated.
- In a matter of seconds, the device warms up and can be used.
- Location of the heating device:
- Colic is treated only after examination by a pediatrician, who must exclude all serious and surgical diseases that can cause child anxiety and stomach pain. In this case, the heating pad is wrapped in 2 layers of dry tissue and is located in the area around the navel of the child so that neither the left nor the right hypochondrium is heated. If the heating device is too large for this baby, you need to try to roll it up or twist it, fixing it on top with a cloth, but be sure to warm the hypochondria. If colic occurs after overeating gas-forming products in a child older than 1 year old (again, the pediatrician should establish the presence of colic), the salt heater can be applied to a child’s T-shirt or t-shirt.
- The hotbed salt ENT used to treat otitis media and sinusitis of non-purulent origin, has the form of human lungs, only smaller. It is superimposed on the region of the nose and sinuses, or on the ear cartilage. If we are talking about a child up to a year, it needs to be wrapped in tissue and not get on the eye area.
- The collar warmer is mainly applied to the collar zone. She can also wrap the knee, elbow and hip joints that hurt due to the presence of a degenerative process. In children, such a device can be used during the treatment of spastic torticollis. Only it will need to be wrapped with cloth.
- If heat is used to warm the legs of a premature baby, it is placed at a distance of 5-7 cm from the feet.
- You can go to bed with an Orlett device in the shape of a mattress. It is used to treat pathologies of the spine and the nearby muscles that hold it.
- Insoles are placed in shoes, under socks.
- The time that a heat source holds is different. It should be prescribed by a doctor:
- with colic it is usually 20-30 minutes,
- with radiculitis, neurosis, osteochondrosis, you can keep the heat up to 4 hours, while the device holds heat,
- insoles for adults can be worn up to 4 hours, if this does not cause discomfort,
- for "blind sounding" the salt heater is placed on the right hypochondrium for 20-30 minutes, no more.
- Then the salt filler needs to be restored. To do this, the heater must be wrapped in a clean cloth and boiled for 10-15 minutes - as much as is written in the instructions.
An electric heating pad is a heater that needs an electrical network to operate. Often it has a temperature regulator, with which you can set either recommended by a doctor (if it comes to treatment), or one that is comfortable (if it comes to warming). The lower the temperature, the longer you can hold such a heater.
Using a heating pad is convenient, just put it in a place that requires heating. It can also be used to treat colic, but in this case it should not be placed on the baby, but under the mattress, and the baby should be laid on the stomach.
The time required for heating with a heating pad can be different: from 20-30 minutes at a temperature of 40 degrees in a baby for 3-5 months, up to 3-4 hours in the treatment of bone, muscle or nervous diseases in adults. You can not sleep with such a heater, especially the baby - because of the danger of electrical injury.
Water-filled rubber heating pads
This is the cheapest way to keep warm or warm a certain area. These heating pads have 2 shapes, various sizes, are made in several colors. Such heaters are not recommended for the treatment of colic, since even having a small size, together with water they will receive sufficient weight that will put pressure on the baby’s stomach.
The algorithm for using rubber tanks is as follows:
- Unscrew the lid of the container.
- Open the tap with warm water. Its temperature should be no more than 55 degrees.
- Draw water into the tank, filling no more than 2/3 of its volume (water should flow, and not inflate the heating pad when you put it in a horizontal position).
- Squeezing the container from the sides, squeeze out air from there (water should come to the edge).
- Screw the cap tight.
- Turn the container upside down: the water should not leak out.
- Dry the product.
- Can be used.
- Places where you can put a water-filled tank do not differ from those for a salt heater.
- Store the hot water tank in a dry condition, with the lid open, upside down.
- endocrine organs: thyroid gland, lumbar region (there are adrenal glands),
- areas of large vessels: on the lateral sides of the neck, behind the neck, on the hips - in the area of the inguinal fold, as well as on the soft tissues of the shoulders, forearms (on the hands - only in the joints, otherwise you will raise your body temperature, warming blood),
- head area
- area of abscess, phlegmon.
Only as prescribed by the doctor, the heater can be installed:
- under the right hypochondrium,
- to the joints
- on the lower back so that the treatment of osteochondrosis or spondylosis is not complicated by inflammation of the kidney tissue,
- on the stomach - with his pains,
- to an inflamed lymph node,
- on the feet - with hypertension,
- on the lumps in the breast of a nursing woman.
You can have a heating pad:
- with cystitis - to the lower abdomen,
- with arthrosis and purulent arthritis - on a sore joint,
- with sprains, ruptures of muscles, tendons, ligaments - on the sore area,
- with myositis - on inflamed muscles,
- with radiculitis - to the sore area, if this is not the area where large vessels pass.
If you need to apply a warming source to the skin of an unconscious person or someone who has a pathology of temperature sensitivity, you must periodically check the area on which the heating pad is applied, especially if it is electric or water-filled, for burns.
Heat and pain
A heating pad is a device that provides dry heat; it is also sometimes called a thermophore (“heat-carrying”). Warmer allows you to activate blood flow in a given area of the body. This can help restore heat transfer during hypothermia, or accelerate the healing process of damaged tissues.
In addition, the heating pad has an analgesic effect - and this is its completely separate function, which is not always associated with increased blood flow. In 2006, scientists from University College London presented a scientific explanation for the fact that heat has an analgesic effect for abdominal pain. These include pain with renal colic, with cystitis, as well as menstrual pain. That is, we were talking about spasm of blood vessels that provide blood supply to internal organs, or about excessive stretching of hollow organs (intestines, uterus), which activates pain receptors.
Studies have shown that when a painful area is warmed up with a heating pad with a temperature above 40 ° C, thermal receptors located in this area are activated. It turned out that thermal receptors of the TRPV1 type produce substances that block P2X3 pain receptors. The latter are “turned on” by ATP molecules released from dying and damaged cells. That is, activation of heat receptors blocks the sensation of pain. By the way, these same receptors are activated by capsaicin - a substance that gives red hot pepper its unbearable burning ability.
But, scientists emphasize, heat can only bring temporary relief. Unless other measures are taken, the pain will return, and it can no longer be stopped so simply.
What are the heating pads?
Most often, when talking about a heating pad, people mean a container filled with hot water and closed by a cork. But the history of warmers knows the most different and amazing options.
In the XVI century there was no central heating, so in the cold season, heating pads were used to warm the bedroom or the bed itself. It could be braziers with coals from a fireplace in the first case or containers with hot water in the second. Such bottles were made of copper, zinc, brass, ceramics, glass and even wood. Metal bottles were wrapped with soft cloth to prevent burns.
In 1875, the British met with rubber heating pads, and their modern rubber version was patented in 1903 by Croatian inventor Slavoljub Eduard Penkala - it was he who called it thermophore. Today, heating pads are often made of silicone, which is not so susceptible to the destructive effect of hot water.
Nowadays, heating pads remain popular in Japan, where they are considered an environmentally friendly and economical way to warm, as well as in Australia, the UK, Ireland and, of course, in developing countries where the problem of central heating remains unresolved, as well as in rural areas, for example in Chile.
But the design and principle of operation of current heaters are markedly different from the bottles of the XVI century. Bed warmers are electric sheets and blankets. For outdoor use in extreme cold (for fishermen, hunters, etc.), chemical heating pads are used.Most often, this is a pocket version containing chemicals that, when contacted with each other, generate heat as a result of an exothermic reaction or when the thermodynamic phase of a substance changes (phase transition, for example, when salts are crystallized from a supersaturated solution).
The containers can be filled with gel or wax, and then they should be heated, for example, in the microwave - and they will retain heat for a long time. Such heaters are considered safer than bottles or containers heated by electricity.
What diseases can I use a heating pad for?
So, a heating pad activates blood supply in the affected area and has an analgesic effect. But one must clearly understand that far from all diseases associated with tissue damage and pain, dry heat can be used for medicinal purposes. We list the painful conditions when the heating pad is really effective:
- Sprain and dislocation
In the first 2-3 days, several times a day should use cold (ice wrapped in tissue) - this relieves swelling and reduces inflammation. But after this, in the healing process, after the edema has subsided, warming up reduces stiffness in movements, relieve pain, and accelerate the healing process.
This disease is characterized by a feeling of stiffness in the affected joints, spasms of the muscles associated with them. Heat removes stiffness and increases mobility.
With this pathology (not to be confused with tendonitis!), Chronic tension develops in the tendons, the tissues become stiff, constrain movements. The heating pad helps to cope with stiffness and also increase the range of motion.
With renal colic, there is a deterioration in the blood supply to the renal capsule, which causes acute, sometimes unbearable pain. Hot-water bottle dilates blood vessels and thereby reduces pain.
Many women experience menstrual pains that develop against the background of uterine muscle contractions during endometrial rejection. With very strong spasms, the blood supply to the uterus is disturbed, hypoxia develops in the tissues, which activates pain receptors. A hot-water bottle restores blood flow, cramps go away, and, as described above, the work of pain receptors is blocked - the pain disappears.
When is a heating pad dangerous to health?
So, in inflammatory processes, a heating pad cannot be used - this can worsen the patient's condition. It is especially important to understand what exactly happens to him with pain, the cause of which is still unclear. After all, the cause of abdominal pain can be both renal colic and appendicitis (inflammation of the appendix). And if in the first case the heating pad helps relieve pain and wait for a doctor, then in the second it can’t be used categorically, since additional heat can accelerate processes that are dangerous to humans.
It is also important to follow certain safety rules for using the heating pad. In Australia, 200 people are hospitalized every year with severe burns caused by the use of heating pads. And this is not about superficial burns, but about deep damage to the skin, when a skin transplant is required to save a person.
English scientists in 2012 reported that half of all injuries caused by heating pads are associated with the destruction of their walls - tearing of rubber heating pads, cracked glass or plastic containers. Another 32% of burns were obtained by pouring hot water into a heating pad, and the remaining 18% due to too long contact with the heating surface. 80% of all injuries associated with heating pads occurred from October to February, that is, in the coldest time of the year. Most often, people went to the hospital with burns to the abdomen and legs. On average, they had to spend at least 25 days in the clinic.
Safety rules for the use of heating pads
Many of the English victims complained that they bought their heating pads in Chinese online stores. And the material from which they were made turned out to be of poor quality. Hot water bottle just burst under the influence of hot water, scalding its owner. Scientists also suggest paying attention to modern heating pads - their electro-or chemical options. This is a more reliable choice, since the grandmother’s rubber heating pad may be too old, microcracks that form in rubber over the years can also cause the heating pad to break and, as a result, severe burns.
- Use hot water but not boiling water
Do not use boiling water for pouring into a heating pad. Firstly, it also has a destructive effect on the material from which it is made. Secondly, the heating pad itself becomes dangerous - no longer hot, but burning.
- When filling the heating pad, remove excess air
Not even boiling water, but just hot can burn. Therefore, when filling the heating pad, you should remove excess air from it as much as possible, otherwise the air bubble may cause some of the hot water to splash onto your hands.
- Do not hold the heating pad for too long
Doctors believe that 20 minutes is the maximum time for using a heating pad for one part of the body. Then significantly increases the risk of burns.
Finally, there are categories of people who are generally not recommended to use heating pads. These include:
- people with reduced skin sensitivity: diabetics, elderly patients, people with diseases that reduce the ability to feel pain,
- people with hypersensitivity to the skin: children, patients with certain types of neuropathies, etc.