Moist Heat (Hot Pack) for Pain Relief

What is a Moist Heat (Hot Pack) & Why Hot/Moist packs Are Useful

The application of hot packs or heat is an age-old technique. Its properties are still being used to avail of several benefits. Hot pack therapy is a type of treatment tool frequently used in physical therapy. It is applied to the affected or injured body region for a specific period to alleviate pain, inflammation, and stiffness. When you follow this method, remember that regulating the temperature of the hot pack and wrapping it in a thin towel is essential to avoid damage to the skin.

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Benefits of Moist Heat (Hot Pack)

Heat therapy is one of the first approaches to treat any physiological condition. Based on the temperature and application period, you can benefit from heat therapy in several ways. 

Provides quick relief for acute pain

Applying a heat pack to the affected area stimulates the sensory receptors located on the skin. This helps block the transmission of pain signals to the brain and ultimately reduces pain. Further, the use of heat improves blood flow and circulation, which in turn eliminates lactic acid buildup (responsible for pain and stiffness).

Help reduce stiffness and improve mobility

Heat therapy plays an essential role in stretching soft tissues around the spine. These would include muscles, connective tissues, and more. Hence, applying regular heat to the affected area will help release tension and improve your range of motion. Further, producing vasodilation increases the supply of oxygen and nutrients while eliminating the body's carbon dioxide and metabolic waste. This helps relax muscles and reduce stiffness. 

Promotes relaxation and reduces stress

The hot pack therapy helps in reducing cortisol levels in your blood. It also helps decrease oxidative stress on a chemical level. These aspects produce a relaxing effect on both your physical and mental state.  

Injuries Prevention

The rise in temperature produced by an external agent (heat packs) mimics the function of a fever. This stimulates your immune system to produce monocytes and cytokines and reduces the levels of c-reactive proteins. Such mechanisms eliminate dead cells, fight infections, and prevent injuries. 

A safe and effective alternative to pain medication

Since applying heat packs is non-invasive and drug-free, it is more beneficial than over-the-counter medications. There is a lower risk of side effects as it facilitates the body's default healing mechanisms. Heat therapy is an excellent alternative for people suffering from chronic conditions, as dependency on medications can lead to long-term consequences. 

Types of Moist Heat Therapy

Despite being an age-old practice, people tend to forget the multiple forms of heat packs that can effectively relieve pain. 

Electric heating pads

In recent years, electric heating pads have gained popularity. These devices consist of insulated wires enclosed in inflammable fabrics. With automatic and manual temperature control settings, you can adjust the degree of heat applied to the affected area.  

Gel packs

Water-based gels or gel beads are packed in reusable pouches that can be heated in the microwave for approximately 30 minutes. Its flexible and malleable nature makes it one of the most convenient tools. Since it is easy to reheat, it can be accessed anywhere.

Warm towels or washcloths

Immersing towels in hot water for 2 to 3 minutes and squeezing the excess water before the application can help relieve pain. The heat in these towels lasts for 5 to 10 minutes, as a result of which its benefits are short-lived.

How to Use Moist Heat Therapy Effectively

While we use hot pack therapy to treat pain, inflammation, and stiffness, it is essential to consider the best practices to achieve complete recovery. 

Set the temperature

Managing the temperature of your hot pack is essential, as high temperatures can lead to burns and damage to the skin. As our experts suggested, the ideal temperature of a hot pack is between 60 to 70 degrees Celcius. 

Apply the pack

Wrapping the heat pack in a thin towel and placing it on the affected area for 15 to 20 minutes allows the heat to penetrate through the tissues resulting in pain relief. 


Along with heat therapy, taking the time to rest and recuperate is essential to achieving a complete recovery. While hot packs can provide temporary relief, it is necessary to void intense physical activity as this can only worsen your condition. 


To observe the benefits of using a hot pack, consistency is key. Hence, our experts recommend applying the pack on the affected area 2 to 3 times throughout the day. 

Precautions to Take When Using Moist Heat Therapy

As mentioned earlier, a higher temperature or direct contact with the hot pack on the skin can severely damage tissues. Hence, you must be cautious as you follow this treatment technique. 

Check the temperature

The temperature of your hot pack is the most important factor that influences the progress or deterioration of the condition. A higher temperature will cause damage to the skin barrier resulting in burns and rashes. This could further increase the risk of contracting infections. 

Avoid prolonged use

Placing a heat pack on the affected area for extended periods may dilate the blood vessels and activate pro-inflammatory cells. This results in severe inflammation and pain at the point of injury.

Don't use it on open wounds

Applying heat to an open wound may increase blood flow, resulting in severe bleeding. Further, due to vasodilation, blood vessels may dilate, leading to prolonged inflammation. 

Don't use while sleeping

Falling asleep with a heat pack on the affected area can worsen the condition as it may increase inflammation, cause damage to the skin barrier, burn the skin, and exacerbate the underlying pain. 

Follow the instructions

Considering the tips suggested above, it is important to follow the best practices while applying heat to the affected area. If using electric heating pads, be well-versed with the procedure and precautions. 

Say Goodbye to Your Pain with Moist Heat Therapy

Our experts at Physiotattva focus on delivering the best treatment options and specialized care to meet your concerns. With our expertise, you can learn the best practices of heat application for a smooth recovery. It is important to remember that this method cannot be used independently. This is why our experts recommend the use of hot packs along with other treatment modalities. For more details on treatment modalities that help you recover smoothly, contact us at +91 89510 47001. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How do hot/moist packs work for pain relief?

Applying heat to the affected area helps reduce stiffness and pain and promotes relaxation. Since the properties of heat activate specific proteins and blood vessels, it facilitates healing and a speedy recovery. 

Can I use hot/moist packs for any type of pain?

We recommend using hot/moist packs only for chronic or sub-acute pain, as applying heat for open wounds, infections, edema, large scars, and more can worsen the condition. 

How often should I use hot/moist packs?

We suggest applying a hot pack for 15-20 minutes around 2-3 times daily. While placing the pack, it is essential to wrap it in a thin towel and avoid prolonged use, as this can cause damage to the tissues.

Are there any risks to using hot/moist packs?

Prolonged or excessive use of any treatment technique can worsen the condition. In the case of hot packs, prolonged use can lead to skin rashes, burns, decreased blood pressure, increased heart rate, and increased swelling. 

Can I use a hot/moist pack if I have sensitive skin?

Using a hot pack may increase the chances of burns, scars, rashes, and inflammation if you have sensitive skin. Keeping this in mind, you can consult a professional on the best practices of heat application to promote healing and recovery.

Frequently Asked Questions

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