A chronic injury/condition is generally 3 weeks to several years post injury. It is important to note that chronic conditions may be prone to acute flare-ups in which case you would treat with ice as previously mentioned.
The following are conditions in which heat is typically helpful to relieve symptoms:
DOMS (Delayed onset muscle soreness) from intense work outs
Muscle pain, spasm
Soft tissue contractures
Non-inflammatory joint pain
Poor mobility (helps to increase stretch and range of motion of muscles)
RA and other inflammatory arthritides while NOT in a flare-up period
Why Treat With Heat?
Heat is an excellent way to treat chronic conditions because it increases circulation to the area and muscle relaxation, which most chronic conditions rely on for symptom relief. The increase of circulation is beneficial because it results in more oxygen and nutrient supply to the tissues needed for healing. Also, the use of heat decreases pain perception, joint stiffness, and muscle tone and spasm. Lastly, the use of heat provides a general sense of relaxation and sedation.
How Do I Treat With Heat?
To treat a chronic injury/condition apply heat to the affected area for approx 10min. Be sure to always place a towel between your skin and the source of heat to prevent skin irritation and burning. You can use a hot water bottle, a heating pad, or even towels that have been immersed in hot water and wrung out. If you are not sure how your skin will react to a heat application, it is best to check your skin after a minute or so to ensure there is no irritation or burns.
You should not use heat applications if you have the following:
Acute injury, inflamed joints, or infection
Sensory changes (i.e. nerve damage, or conditions such as diabetes mellitus where there may be sensory