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Heat therapy in Chinese medicine

On this page

  1. About
  2. History
  3. How does it work?
  4. What are the health benefits?
  5. Are there any side effects?
  6. Pregnancy
  7. Why don't the Chiense use cold packs?

1. About

Heat therapy is the application of heat to specific acupuncture points on the body, such as burning moxa. Moxibustion can also be used for this purpose, but I generally just use an acupuncture heat lamp (infrared) and an electric blanket on the couch rather than heating pads.

The use of heat therapy in traditional Chinese medicine is very important. Chinese medicine never uses cold therapy, as it's believed cold works against the body. Qi (energy) and blood move better when the body is warmer. Blood is a liquid too so is affected by the cold. People fall ill in winter because their immune system, which is housed in the blood moves slower allowing viruses to get the upper hand.

2. History

Heat therapy has been used to treat aches and pains in the body for thousands of years all over the world.

3. How heat therapy works

Qi (energy) is also heat, so more heat can aid Qi's flow better. Heat allows the body to work more efficiently. For example, when you fall ill, you get a raised body temperature so the immune system in the blood can work more quickly and efficiently and attack any pathogens invading the body.

Infrared dry heating treatment helps increasing blood flow to soft tissue areas to relieve chronic pain and treat acute injury caused by the cold.

You can also use a heat pack, a gel pack or moist heat.

4. Health benefits

Heat therapy is very good at increasing blood flow, damaged tissue, reducing pain, relaxing the muscle spasm and the mind, improving overall health and reducing cold in the body.

5. Side effects

Rarely there are any side effects from heat therapy if properly used. If you apply heat too much to one area they can burn the skin, hence why I don't recommend using a heat wrap.

6. Pregnancy

Heat therapy should not be used directly on the woman's abdomen or bump as heat can make the baby restless. Instead heat therapy can be applied to other areas of the body for pain relief.

7. The use of cold therapy

Unlike physiotherapists or chiropractors, Chinese medicine never recommends the application of cold packs to areas of the body with inflammation and pain. Cold in Chinese medicine causes stagnation which slows the body down from working properly. Instead we recommend hot baths or the use of hot water bottles.