One of the most effective strategies for soothing the pain of fibromyalgia is also the simplest: apply heat. This can be especially helpful in winter, when Mother Nature is turning down the thermostat.
Heat therapy offers pain relief because it dilates the blood vessels of the muscles, boosting the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the muscles. By stimulating sensory receptors in the skin, it also reduces pain signals to the brain, which is why you usually feel better after using a heating pad.
Some people find dry heat most helpful, while others prefer moist heat. Moist heat can be especially good at penetrating into sore muscles, but the choice is up to you.v
A heating pad or hot wrap you heat up in the microwave is a great place to start. You can easily buy or make one to have at the ready when it’s needed.
But you don’t need to stop there. Here are 4 other ways to use heat therapy to ease fibromyalgia aches and pains:
1. Take the plunge
If you groan just hearing the word exercise, warm-water therapy could be just what you need. Whether you join a water exercise class or work one-on-one with a physical therapist, the warmth of the water—usually 83 degrees or higher—relaxes your muscles, leading to increased flexibility. The natural buoyancy of the water helps, too.
You’ll discover you can move much more comfortably in the water than on land. Over time, many people who participate in water therapy also get better at land-based exercises. To find a class, check local recreation centers and fitness clubs.
2. Bring the spa home
When it comes to deep heat to ease pain and stiffness, it’s hard to beat warm paraffin wax. Spas offer paraffin to soothe and moisturize the skin. You can get all these benefits at home by buying a portable paraffin warmer.
Paraffin wax warmers for home use have a tub about the size of a crockpot. You place chunks of solid paraffin wax into the tub, turn on the machine, and wait for the wax to melt and liquefy. Then you dip a hand, elbow, or foot into the wax. The soothing warmth lingers as it solidifies. Once it cools, you peel off the wax and put it back into the warmer to reuse later. You can buy these warmers at discount and specialty stores or order one online.
3. Consider a furry friend
Fibromyalgia’s unpredictable nature can strain social ties when you have to cancel plans at the last minute. A pet, on the other hand, is always ready to be your buddy, snuggling up against you and keeping you warm day and night. Some people even like to place a cat or small dog on a painful part of their body, to act as a live heating pad.
Having a furry friend can also help with anxiety and depression, which are more common if you have fibromyalgia. Pet shelters and animal rescue organizations are good places to look for a pet.
4. Try heated clothing
As temperatures drop, going outside can add to the discomfort of fibromyalgia. This winter, put technology to use with the latest battery-warmed jackets, gloves, shoe insoles, and socks.
If you’ll be sitting outside for an extended time, bring along a heated stadium seat cushion.