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This is how heat belts help with back pain

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  • How does heat work against back and neck pain?
  • Does heat help against sore muscles?
  • What kind of pain does heat help with – and what doesn’t it?
  • What is a heat belt?
  • How does a heat belt work?
  • Can heat belts etc. only relieve pain or also combat the cause?
  • When should you seek medical attention?
  • What different heat tools are there and what are their advantages and disadvantages?
  • How long can I wear a heat belt?

Anyone who sits in front of a computer all day, makes a wrong move or just sleeps stupidly probably knows this: it pulls in the back and hurts in the neck. According to a BKK study from 2020, only twelve percent of Germans are not affected by occasional or frequent back pain – it is the number one widespread disease. Luckily, there are heat tools that can provide relief, even for sore muscles. Back expert Lara Ahlefelder explains to us what helps, when and what you need to pay attention to.

How does heat work against back and neck pain?

“Heat promotes blood circulation, which relieves cramps and tension,” explains Lara Ahlefelder, back training trainer and owner of Back Break. The increased blood flow provides long-term pain relief and helps repair damaged muscles more quickly. But heat can also help acutely: from 40 degrees Celsius, it stimulates our heat receptors and thus distracts from the pain stimulus, as a physiological study by University College London shows.

Does heat help against sore muscles?

Sore muscles can be very painful. Numerous studies show that pain can be reduced by both cold and heat. In a comparative study, heat performed better than cold, although it is important that the heat is applied, if possible, about an hour after intensive sporting activity.

A meta-analysis from 2021 also found that heat pads have a better effect than warm baths or saunas, probably because they can be used over a longer period of time, the scientists speculate.

What kind of pain does heat help with – and what doesn’t it?

Expert Lara Ahlefelder recommends heat therapy, for example, against muscle hardness and tension, subsiding muscle soreness, tense neck and pain in the lower back.

But be careful: heat is not always advisable. “Warm is great for muscular tension. However, if the pain comes from inflammation, you should work with the opposite, i.e. cold. Heat can make inflammation worse,” says Ahlefelder. Inflammation can often be recognized by the skin being warm, red or throbbing.

What is a heat belt?

Heat belts are, as the name suggests, tools in the shape of a belt that can be used to warm a large area of ​​the back. Heat belts have various advantages: their belt shape means they stay in place without slipping, they are practical for on the go, they warm a large area and, depending on the model, they can have an additional supporting effect.

How does a heat belt work?

The belts are available in different versions, for example as a disposable product that works through an oxidation process, as a hot water bottle or in electronic form, with or without cable. Heat belts have recently experienced a real hype: they use heat to relieve and loosen back and neck tension, which has increased not least in unergonomically furnished home offices, without side effects such as painkillers. We will introduce you to the different types of heating belts below.

Can heat belts etc. only relieve pain or also combat the cause?

“My experience is that heat is a great and simple tool for getting the problem under control. However, if you sit in an unergonomic position all day and put the hot water bottle on your back in the evening, the pain and tension won’t go away permanently away. It provides relief, but a lack of exercise, an unbalanced diet and stress are often the cause of back pain,” explains expert Ahlefelder.

She recommends regular exercise to compensate, especially for people who spend most of the day sitting in the office. Quick tips: Change the chair or seat cushion every now and then and incorporate small exercises, such as consciously looking to the right and left over your shoulders, circling your shoulders or stretching your arms up and picking imaginary apples.

When should you seek medical attention?

With a little patience you can usually get rid of everyday tensions quickly. If you don’t feel any improvement after a few days with home remedies such as heat therapy, magnesium, massages and exercise, the expert recommends going to the doctor’s office to rule out anything more serious. Also a warning sign: pain or numbness radiating to the arms and legs.

What different heat tools are there and what are their advantages and disadvantages?

If you search the Internet for heat belts for back and neck pain, you can quickly lose track. We have compiled the different types for you, tested them and clarified their advantages and disadvantages with our expert. Basically, with mobile solutions such as self-heating compresses, heat patches and belts, you can continue to move, which is helpful against tension. Heat tools that hang on the cable or are placed on the painful area like hot water bottles and cherry stone pillows are more for the evening or in between when you’re taking a break anyway.

1. On the go for the lower back: self-heating wraps and belts

The disposable envelopes are intended for the lower back and hold thanks to the Velcro fastener. The therapeutic heat of 40 degrees Celsius lasts for up to eight hours. The envelopes contain a mixture of iron granules, activated carbon, salt and water, the heat is created through an oxidation process. Expert Ahlefelder recommends this type of heating tool especially for on the go because it works without electricity, is skin-friendly and lasts reliably.

2. Can be used precisely: heat plasters and patches

If a specific spot on the back hurts or the neck is tense, self-adhesive heat plasters are a good idea. These are available in different designs, such as a flexible X-shape, an XXL version or specifically for the neck.

Ahlefelder appreciates the solution for on the go, but also knows its disadvantages: “Patches are not ideal for pain in the shoulder area because they come off with everyday movements.”

And be careful: There are different types of heat patches. Some contain activated carbon and iron and work through an oxidation process. This chemical process generates heat. Other plasters have a similar effect to warming ointments with the pepper extract capsaicin and do not produce actual heat, but rather a feeling of warmth because the active ingredient irritates the skin and stimulates blood circulation. Sensitive people should be very careful here and prefer to use other plasters or tools.

3. The classics: hot water bottles and cherry stone pillows

“If you’re at home, a hot water bottle is great; in my experience, the heat is pretty intense,” says back expert Ahlefelder. “Sensitive people in particular should wear a layer of material between their skin and the hot water bottle.” If hot water bottles are too hot for you, she recommends cherry stone pillows. They have a pleasant weight and hold well on the shoulders, but they cool down quite quickly.

A practical alternative to the traditional hot water bottle is the electric hot water bottle, which does not require filling with hot water. The hot water bottle is charged and then works wirelessly and can be used individually thanks to the additional belt.

4. Good all around: Electric heat belts

Heat belts are the best choice, especially for lower back pain, because they warm the entire area. Such heating belts are available in different designs. Wireless belts with battery operation that have different heating levels and keep you warm for up to four hours are practical for on the go. If you’re on the go, it’s worth buying an additional battery, for example to cover a whole working day. Disadvantage: Belts with batteries are slightly bulkier, so it is possible that they can be seen under clothing.

5. Nice and cozy: heating pads and blankets

“What used to be fashionable on coffee trips is currently making a comeback,” says Ahlefelder about her everyday working life. Electric heating pads and blankets are a convenient solution, especially at home, and can be used on the sofa or in bed.

Vest-shaped electric blankets are particularly suitable for tension in the neck and shoulder area. Disadvantage: Most electric blankets and pillows work via a power cable, there are only a few exceptions with battery operation (e.g. from Stoov). Be careful with neck and shoulder problems: “Heating tools are often placed too close to the head, which can quickly lead to headaches,” warns the expert.

How long can I wear a heat belt?

“The longer, the better,” says Lara Ahlefelder and recommends allowing heat to work for several hours. If you can’t use a tool at the moment, she recommends keeping tense areas warm, for example with a scarf, kidney belt or undershirt.

It is better not to use any of the tools overnight. Heat can cause skin irritation, which you may not notice until the next morning. Electric heat belts in particular, whether with a cable or battery, should be turned off before going to bed and, like all electrical devices, only used with full attention. But don’t worry: Thanks to the duvet and pajamas, it’s pleasantly warm in bed and tension often disappears overnight.

Heat helps against tension and pain in the back and neck area. Heat belts in particular, whether disposable or electric, are a good investment. But be careful: although they help against temporary problems, they cannot be a substitute for a balanced everyday life with enough exercise.

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