A warm compress is an easy way to increase blood flow to sore areas of your body. This increased blood flow can reduce pain and speed up the healing process.
You can use a warm compress for a range of conditions, including:
There are two main types of warm compress:
- Moist warm compress. This type uses a warm liquid to apply heat to an area. An example of a moist warm compress is a towel soaked in hot water.
- Dry warm compress. This type uses a dry surface to transfer heat. Examples include a rubber hot water bottle or a heating pad.
Read on to learn how to make both types of warm compress and when to use them.
Both dry and moist warm compresses deliver heat to your skin. But moist heat is generally more effective than dry heat, especially for deep muscle tissue pain.
For example, a found that moist heat helped relieve muscle soreness in one quarter of the time it took for a compress using dry heat to do the same. Moist heat can be used to treat sinus headaches, congestion, and muscle soreness.
But if you aren’t at home or need something that’s convenient and doesn’t require any cleanup, a dry compress can be a good option.
You can easily make a moist warm compress at home in a couple of ways.
Gather a small towel and a large bowl, and then go through the following steps:
- Fill the bowl with water that feels hot, but not scalding, to the touch.
- Soak the towel in the hot water, wringing out the excess.
- Fold the towel into a square and apply it to the area that’s in pain.
- Hold the towel to your skin for up to 20 minutes at a time.
If you have access to a microwave, you can also try making your own moist heating pad. Just grab an extra towel and a ziplock bag and follow these steps:
- Wet both towels with water. Squeeze out the excess water until they’re just damp.
- Put one towel in the ziplock bag, being sure to leave the bag open. Place the bag in the microwave for about 2 minutes.
- Remove the bag from the microwave. Be careful, as the bag will be hot. Seal the ziplock bag, and wrap the other wet towel around the bag.
- Apply your homemade heating pad to the sore area. The heat should last about 20 minutes.
You can just as easily make a dry warm compress using materials you have at home.
Instead of a towel, gather some uncooked rice and a clean, long sock. You can use salt if you don’t have any rice on hand. You’ll also need a source of heat, such as a microwave.
Once you have all of your materials, follow these steps:
- Fill the foot part of the sock with uncooked rice.
- Tie off the top of the sock.
- Place the sock full of rice in the microwave for 30 seconds. Continue heating it in 15-second increments until it feels warm, but not hot, to the touch.
- Apply the sock to the painful area for up to 20 minutes at a time.
If you only need to use the heat on a small area, you can also hold a metal spoon under hot running water for about 10 seconds, or until it heats up. Dry off the spoon and hold it to the painful area for up to 20 minutes. Just make sure it’s not too hot before you apply it to your skin.
Warm compresses are generally safe, but it’s best to hold off if you have a fresh injury, such as a cut or a muscle sprain. For recent injuries, applying a cold pack may be more beneficial for reducing pain and inflammation.
A warm compress is one of the most useful home remedies. You can use it for everything from soothing tense muscles to draining painful cysts. Just don’t use it on any fresh injuries.