Heat treatments are used to provide benefits to health, ranging from treating joint pain to arthritis and increasing circulation to reducing post-exercise muscle pain. Although you can derive benefits from the heat in steam rooms or hot tubs, using hot wet towels is a convenient and inexpensive mode of heat therapy. The towels can be administered before a massage to increase circulation and help relieve muscle pain.
Effects of moist heat
Moist heat sources (such as hot towels) transfer heat more quickly and effectively to underlying skin and surface tissues than dry heat, according to a December 2013 report in the "Journal of Clinical Medicine Research." Applying moist, hot towels also increases blood flow to the skin more quickly than sources of dry heat, according to a study published in September 2009 in "Archives of Dermatological Research." When used to treat muscle pain, such as after intense training, applying hot moist towels is most effective during the first 24 hours, according to a 2013 study. To obtain optimal muscle healing benefits through increased blood flow, other forms of moist heat delivery could be better, since the towels are cooled quickly.
Integrate with massage
Massage therapy increases blood flow and skin temperature for up to 60 minutes, according to a July 2010 report in the "Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine." As both moist heat and massage are used to relieve muscle pain after exercise, these therapies are usually integrated. One option is to apply hot moist towels for 20 minutes to 2 hours immediately after exercise and continue with a massage that concentrates on the muscles used in training.
Make sure the temperature of the towel is not too hot before applying it to your body. Also, talk to a health care professional before using hot towels if you have a pre-existing health condition that affects the sensation of temperature or circulation, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease.