Thursday, November 22, 2012

It's in the Details: Using Moist Heat

  I am the type of person who really likes to learn, so after I read Claire Davies' book (The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook), I wanted to read the book where he got his information.  This two-volume set is called, Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction:  The Trigger Point Manual, and is written by Janet G. Travell and David G. Simons, et al.   (Hereafter called the Red books...) It has more detailed information in it and if you have a bit of anatomy background as I have, it is readable.  It also has great illustrations by Barbara D. Cummings. 
  One of the things that was emphasized in the Red books was to apply moist heat to the area after performing trigger point therapy.
  I thought this was a good idea, but I hadn't used it much, mainly because it seemed difficult to do.  I was picturing a fairly complicated scenario, in which I would take a hot bath, or at the very least, get a bucket of very hot water, dip a towel into it, squeeze out the excess water, and then apply to the affected site.  
  I wondered how to apply moist heat without all of the hassle.  Then I remembered:  Rice-filled, microwave-powered heat pads.  They give off moist heat.  I have some of those.  (If you don't have these, they are very easy to make.  Do a search on the Internet, and I'll bet you find some instructions.  If you can't find any, leave a comment here, and I will get some for you.)
  Several days ago, my back "went out,"  I used trigger point therapy on the most likely culprits:  the psoas, my gluts, the muscles surrounding my spine, especially up by the bottom of my ribs.  I would get temporary relief, but everything seemed to seize up again, pretty much immediately.  I decided that I probably had pinched a nerve.  I could not get my abdominal muscles to relax.  The pain would start in my sacrum area (center back around and below the waistline), and I could feel it reach up the sides of my neck and down my thighs.  It is really hard to maintain your cool when you can't get these muscles to relax.
  I called to see if I could get in to the chiropractor, but knew it was not likely.  They put me on the cancellation list, but I never got in.
  Knowing that the long holiday weekend was ahead of me, I knew that I was going to have to tough it out.  It was then that I remembered my rice-filled heating pads.  I took my ibuprofen.  Then I heated up three of my rice heating pads and sat in a comfy easy chair.   I put one heating pad on my back behind my waist, another around one of my hips to help one of the trigger points in the gluts, and the other I put around my shoulders.
  I was amazed at how fast my pain subsided.  I could actually think!  After a while, I was able to get up and do a few things, very carefully and slowly.  Of course, after an hour or so, I began to feel pain again, but I was encouraged; at least I could manage the pain through the Thanksgiving holiday!
  I decided to do an experiment (I am taking a statistics class right now, so I think like this...).  In a few hours, I tried just the ibuprofen after using trigger point therapy, but I used no warm, moist heat.  It lessened my pain somewhat, but it seemed hardly noticeable.  A few hours later, I used just the moist heat after trigger point therapy, with no ibuprofen.  Again, I felt that instant, soothing relief!  Yay!  I found that taking the ibuprofen every four to six hours, and doing the trigger point therapy and moist heat every hour was an ideal prescription for my pain. 
  Over several sessions, I was able to get my back to the point where it did not feel like a pinched nerve anymore, but it still had the residual soreness from the whole traumatic experience.
  My upper back started to feel like it might go out though.  This happens sometimes when one area of the body has been so tight that other areas are tightening to keep the balance.  When the overly tight area finally releases, sometimes the second area seizes.  (Think of the energy involved in a tug-of-war.  Both sides are pulling very hard on the rope.  If one side suddenly lets go, the other side will be exerting too much energy and fall down.  It is a similar idea.) 
  I have been continuing to use trigger point therapy on all of these areas, and I am careful to not overdo my activities.  At least I can walk somewhat smoothly today.  And I can get up and down out of the chair without trouble.
  I was able to get up this morning and roll out my "twisty" rolls for Thanksgiving dinner.  I am so thankful that I was not doing the turkey this year.  I don't think my back is strong enough for that yet.     I will bring my therapy ball (lacrosse ball) and my heating pads to Thanksgiving dinner.  Meanwhile, I am feeling very thankful that my pain has lessened significantly



  1. A "Thermaphor" (not sure of spelling) is a heating pad that provides moist heat too. (by getting so hot you sweat, I believe) This type are a bit more expensive than most, but worth it. Even many cheaper ones have a fabric cover that is made to dampen. if you go to yard sales, thrift shops, other places that sell used stuff, you might get lucky to find one for $5 or $10.

    Rice or dried beans or feed corn all work well. Flax seed is really wonderful if you are making them for on your eyes or forehead. All of them can be kept in the freezer for a cold pack too. Just be careful when you heat them in the microwave. The time differs a lot depending on what and how much is in the bag. Power also differs, so test the temp after a minute and add 30 seconds each time till you get to the correct time for the bag. I had someone ignore my instructions and catch one on fire in the microwave.... really.

    Also used tennis balls work well, you can even get them free if you ask at the court, once they loose their bounce, they get tossed out.

  2. Thanks Hennahair. Great info!