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.