Both dry and wet heat can relieve muscle pain, some People prefer one method over the other. Many experience more immediate relief with moist heat, but dry heat usually lasts longer and offers greater convenience. Deciding between the two many times is a matter of personal preference. Knowing the advantages and disadvantages of both options can help you decide which one to use.
Dry heat sources eliminate skin moisture while moist heat sources do not. According to Vert Mooney, MD, on his Spine Health website, using dry heat can dehydrate the skin. Dry heat sources are usually more convenient when applied and many people believe that it is easier to maintain the amount of heat for an extended period of time with dry heat. Some people prefer moist heat, believing that moisture helps heat penetrate the muscles.
Examples of moist heat
Common examples include hot water bottles, hot baths, and wet hot gel packs. A warm bath gives you an enveloping heat source that relieves muscle pain and relaxes the muscles of the body that are tense in response to the source of the pain. A hot bath in a whirlpool tub helps even more. Hot water bottles or gel packs can maintain the temperature for up to 30 minutes and the portability of these sources is convenient. The Merck Manual advises to be careful not to burn with hot packings and never apply them directly on the skin, a layer of cotton cloth should always separate the packaging from your skin.
Examples of dry heat
Common forms of dry heat include electric cushions and heat patches. Unlike humid heat sources, electric cushions maintain a consistent heat level. Some turn off automatically after a certain time, but you can typically turn them on again if this happens. The heat patches are not connected to the wall and therefore are portable and convenient. These patches adhere to the clothes placed directly against the skin, the heat level is low but relatively constant and can last up to eight hours.
If the area around the sore muscle becomes swollen or bruised, ice can reduce inflammation instead of heat. You should always monitor the area you are treating, either through wet or dry heat. If the area overheats, the heat source must be removed immediately before it causes a burn. People with dermatitis, diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, kidney disorders or lack of sensitivity to the skin should consult a doctor before using any heat treatment.