Hot packs are placed on the area of symptoms. The heat helps relax the patient and causes vasodilation of the surrounding blood vessels thereby increasing circulation to the region. This decreases muscle tension and can be used to increase compliance with suggestions such as lying down to decrease pain in the low back. Hot packs can also be used as a way of preparing a tissue for manual physical therapy, stretching, or exercises. The physiologic effect is only approximately 1 mm deep. The alternative could be immersion in a warm water bath which can result in a more significant effect as the core body temperature is raised (Santamato et al. 2009).
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