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The History of Heat Therapy

  • Pain Relief
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How often have you heard about soaking in a hot tub or applying heat to affected areas when you've felt pain, discomfort and cramping? Did you ever wonder how heat therapy treatments originated? And exactly when did this practice begin?

"Heat therapy dates back to the ancient Greeks and Egyptians."

An Early History
The early history of heat therapy, when it was used for a number of reasons, can be traced back thousands of years to the ancient Greeks and Egyptians. According to a paper published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information in the United States National Library of Medicine, early physicians used the sun's rays for the purpose of heat therapy. The practice dates back to 500 B.C. when Egyptian physicians applied specific rules for sun and heat therapy. Thermal baths, mud baths and hot air caverns linked to volcanic sources were all common practices. 

Hippocrates is known to have recognized the power of heat as it related to healing and once stated, "Give me the power to produce fever, and I will cure all disease."

It was also found that hot water, steam and sand were used to treat muscle spasms and pains. During this time, heat therapies were used to cure illness and disease and treat fever and skin conditions as well.

Heat Therapy and Fevers
The natural method of heat therapy continued through the ages. It was widely believed that if a patient broke out in a violent sweat, he was considered cured. The Native Americans used hot vapor baths to treat fevers, and to heal arthritis, neuritis, and rheumatism as well. Although at the time they did not distinguish between the various conditions, they turned toward the power of heat with sweat baths to heal each type of ailment. This practice continues to remain a part of their culture today.

The practice of heat therapy in hot springs wasn't limited to just one group of people. It was popular in the Chinese and Japanese empires as early as the 16th century. Individuals would use hot stones to treat conditions including syphilis and urinary tract infections, arthritis and rheumatism. These stones and therapies were also used as a remedy for respiratory and digestive issues. Soaking in natural hot springs as a suggested therapy was widely practiced in England at the same time.

The healing power of thermal baths has been practiced throughout the ages.The healing power of thermal baths has been practiced throughout the ages.

Heat Therapy Today
Today, the Arthritis Foundation considers using natural heat and cold therapies for pain relief to be the two most simple, yet most effective treatments for arthritis and swelling. However, this doesn't limit the use of heat therapy to just those experiencing chronic muscle and joint pain. People of all ages, shapes and sizes are able to benefit from heat treatments, even the most fit and active individuals. In fact, warming up before engaging in physical activity will make your body more limber.

Heat increases circulation in your body, helping to move nutrients to your joints and muscles. If you experience tired muscles and stiff joints, the ancient yet proven method of soaking in a hot bath or warm whirlpool can ease tension and pain. Applying a warm compress such as a heating pad, and simultaneously massaging the area, also works well for soothing stiff body parts. Best of all, this method of relaxing muscles, increasing blood flow and promoting comfort and relief is all natural.

If you are looking for a more holistic option to what some doctors prescribe today in the form of medications, you may want to try heat therapy instead. Though discovered in ancient times, it is still one of the leading forms of pain relief today.