Deep heat is a treatment for injury and pain. The heat relaxes the muscles and blood vessels, which helps treat muscle spasms and brings more blood to the treated area. It can help your body heal and may lessen pain. With deep heat treatments, the heat is delivered several inches below the skin surface into tissues and muscles.
Deep heat treatments are different from a heating pad or a heat lamp used for minor aches and pains.
Deep heat may be used to treat problems such as:
Deep heat treatment is usually not given until several days after an injury, when there is less irritation and swelling.
Deep heat treatments should not be used if you have:
Deep heat treatments are not done on areas above the eye or around the heart, or if you are pregnant.
Deep heat treatments are usually done by a trained therapist in a provider's office or physical therapy center. A machine that produces energy waves is placed on the skin. The heat is created as the energy from the machine passes through your body tissues.
Some machines treat large areas of the body. Before you have a treatment you must remove all metal objects, including jewelry, glasses, and hearing aids. Towels are usually placed between you and the machine. Treatments last about 15 minutes and may be given 2 to 3 times per day for 3 to 14 days.
Other machines are used to treat smaller areas of the body. Muscle tissue, ligaments, and tendons absorb this form of energy very well. Each treatment lasts 5 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of the area being treated.
Heating large areas of the body can sometimes make you feel dizzy or nauseous. It might also irritate your skin. You will be checked for these problems after the treatment before you go home.
The high temperatures can sometimes damage tissue. During therapy, bony areas with little soft tissue (such as the hands, feet, and elbows) can get too hot. This can cause pain and tissue damage.
Talk with your provider about whether this treatment will be helpful for you. Ask your healthcare provider what symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them. Be sure to discuss any other questions or concerns that you may have.