How to Make A Simple Hot Compress for Muscle Pain

Two Methods:Making a Hot CompressTrying Medical Alternatives

Make a hot compress to soothe aching muscles. This can be helpful to alleviate pain in chronic injuries or injuries that are more than a day or two old.[1] If you are treating an acute muscle injury (recent ones within the last 24–48 hours), you should treat the injury with ice. Note, however, that if your injury is serious you should always seek evaluation from a medical professional or a physiotherapist.

Method 1
Making a Hot Compress

  1. 1
    Run water from the tap until it is hot. You may want to heat water on the stove or in the microwave, but you have more chance of burning yourself if you heat the water in this way. Instead, run the hot water from your sink to a temperature that is just hot enough for you to tolerate.
  2. 2
    Find a towel that is large enough to cover your injury. Fold a towel or washcloth to cover only the area you want to place the compress on.
  3. 3
    Place the towel under the running water and allow it to become saturated with water. Test the towel to make sure it isn't too hot to place on your skin. Then, place it on the affected region.
    • Leave the towel on for 20 minutes or so, up to three times a day, until your soreness improves.
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    Heat your whole body.[2] Rather than making a compress for a specific area of your body, if you have multiple sore muscles or your whole body is sore after a grueling working heating your whole body can be an effective way for pain relief (and it can also speed up your post-workout recovery time). Options include:
    • Have a hot bath.
    • Have a hot shower.
    • Go in a hot tub.
    • Go in a steam room.
    • Go in a sauna.
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    Take precautions. If you are treating sore muscles with heat on a regular basis, it is important to take the following precautions:
    • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water (at least 8 cups a day). Prolonged exposure to heat can cause dehydration so it's important to drink ample water.[3]
    • Be careful not to burn yourself. Check the temperature of the hot towel before using or, if you are using a heating pad or hot water bottle, you should wrap it in a towel or cloth prior to use to ensure you do not burn your skin.[4]
    • Check your skin for blistering. If this occurs, or you experience pain, remove the compress. Your body will generally tell you when things are too hot.
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    Understand why heat can be soothing and help to ease muscle pain. Heat helps your sore muscle(s) to relax by stimulating the blood flow to the area and diminishing muscle spasms.[5]
    • Muscle pain commonly occurs in over-worked muscles due to the build-up of something called lactic acid.[6]
    • Lactic acid is a metabolic by-product of challenging workouts (or challenging sports games), and you need to increase the blood flow to the sore muscle in order to clear the lactic acid out.[7]
    • Note that if you have chronically sore muscles, heat prior to working out (or prior to a sports event) can help to ease any pain you may feel during the activity itself.[8]
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    Try other options. If you have a heating pad at home, or a hot water bottle, these can be quick and effective "home remedies" for sore muscles.[9] If you find that you have sore muscles regularly, you may want to invest in a heating pad or a hot water bottle to avoid having to make your own hot compress with a towel and hot water every time.

Method 2
Trying Medical Alternatives

  1. Image titled Make A Simple Hot Compress for Muscle Pain Step 7
    Use an anti-inflammatory cream or gel.[10] Rub it on the sore muscle(s) following exercise. Examples include Bengay or Voltaren. Ask your doctor or local pharmacist for other suggestions.
    • Pay attention to dosage. Even though these are topical treatments, they can be absorbed systemically, and dosage needs to be acknowledged and followed.
    • Be careful not to apply medicated creams to broken or damaged skin.
    • See your physician if your pain persists longer than a couple of weeks after trying these topical treatments.
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    Try topical capsaicin. This is derived from hot chili peppers, and can serve as an effective pain-killer.[11] When you first apply capsaicin to your skin, it may have a tingling or slight burning sensation.[12] Do not worry as this is to be expected.
    • Note that capsaicin may take anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks (applied once daily) to become effective in terms of pain relief.[13] If you are going to try this method, stick to it for this time frame before coming to any conclusions about whether or not it works for you.
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    See your doctor. If you do not notice improvement of your muscle pain within a week or two following the onset of muscle soreness, it is important to have a proper assessment from your physician or physiotherapist (someone who is experienced at diagnosing more severe athletic injuries).
    • If there is something more serious going on, you will want to know about it sooner than later so that you can treat the injury properly before it gets any worse.

Article Info

Categories: Hot and Cold Compresses