Recently, someone brought it to my attention that they’d heard that heating pads are bad for Endo. Now…I live with my heating pad literally attached to my body almost every first few days of my period. So, I was taken aback by the suggestion as I find the heat soothing. And I vowed to do some research on the theory that heat is bad for Endo…and, as usual, formulate my own opinion and share it with you.
Endometriosis News ran an article in August of 2017 highlighting the opinions of Melissa of EndoEmpowered and Aubree Deimler of Peace with Endo, and both discussed how heat may cause fascia to manipulate (or soften) and harden after it cools down once the heat is removed. Aubree tried the heat elimination process to see how she felt, and felt a difference with her pain. If you’d like to try, please follow her example. Melissa interviewed Chris Toal of Azolla Health, who shared a downloadable brochure on the theories behind heat and fascia. Not only does Toal discourage the use of heating pads, but also the use of hot showers or baths. Aubree directly linked back to Melissa’s article and interview.
What is fascia? It’s a thin, fibrous tissue made up mostly of collagen that covers and supports tissue, such as muscles or organs.
From what I gather, the underlying theory expressed in the views of Endometriosis News, Melissa, and Aubree of why heat is bad for Endometriosis pain is that the heat, for lack of a better term, softens or melts the fascia tissue. Once the heating pad is removed, the fascia rehardens and can make the pain worse. This may cause adhesions to shift, form, and harden. Aubree cites to Ida Rolf‘s theory regarding fascia and displacement with energy/heat/manipulation.
Visualize a brand new, unlit candle. Once lit, the wax begins to melt. Blow out the flame and the wax cools and rehardens, oftentimes in a new shape. Or think of making gelatin: the mixture is liquid while hot and solidifies once it’s in the fridge and cooled off.
The fascia-altering theory is the only argument I have been able to find against using heating pads if you have Endometriosis…so:
Let’s find some proof to all of this…because, like I said, sometimes I live on my heating pad.
Ida’s theory that fascia tissue degrades with manipulation or energy is frowned upon by some. It’s called the thixotropic effect, where the tissues degrade with heat or pressure, then reform upon settling. Paul Ingraham wrote about his opinions in Feb. of 2013 and again Jan. of 2018 on thixotropic effect on PainScience.com and opines that fascia is simply “too tough” to manipulate in such a manner and states that Ms. Rolf found her theory to be “nonsense” as well. Mr. Ingraham cited many studies and professionals to support his opinions. You’re welcome to read both pieces (linked above and in the Resources section below).
But what if it’s not nonsense? According to the Science of Slow Cooking (mmmmm…crock pot food…), collagen begins to break down and liquify into a gelatin at 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Now, I’m no expert on the human body versus a meat-animal, but…how hot do heating pads get?!?
A study published in Safety Brief in 2015 ran a few experiments on heating pad created by Kaz (Model HP-110). After running the heating pad for 120 minutes, it never exceeded 151 degrees Fahrenheit, uncovered.
Sunbeam offers a FAQ on their webpage about the temperature range of their heating pads: the low setting 110 degrees F and the high setting can get up to 160 degrees F.
Sew4Home conducted their own little science experiment with homemade microwaveable heating pads. They compared rice, corn, and flaxseed. After 30 seconds of heating, the rice was 140 degrees Fahrenheit, the corn was 158 degrees, and the flaxseed was 144 degrees. Five minutes later, each had cooled: 136 (rice), 142 (corn), and 142 (flaxseed).
Hot water bottles should never be filled with boiling water (water typically boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit), due to leakage and safety concerns. Many manufacturers of hot water bottles suggest a nice, easy-to-touch temperature; not scalding.
So, I’m not sure that heating pads (electrical, microwaveable, or hot water bottles) will get hot enough to do any liquifying damage to facia. But, then again, I’m no expert. And several webpages promote the use of heating pads (sometimes combined with castor oil packs) to help with adhesion, Endometriosis, pelvic, or lower back pain.
So, then I was curious: why do heating pads make my pain feel better? Once more, I hit the internet. And, once more, ran into a lot of Mr. Paul Ingraham’s writings and voluminous cited resources, along with other webpages.
Heat may be very soothing, it increases blood circulation to the area, it may relax tense muscles, and a 2006 study found that internal heat receptors may actually block pain signals. So, once more, heat may be good for dealing with certain types of pain.
Again, I’m not a scientist and this is just my opinion after bouncing around the internet for several hours doing research and reading. My conclusion?
My heating pads make me feel better…and I will not stop using them. Am I knocking Endometriosis News, Melissa, Aubree, or Chris? Nope. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and I value a broad perspective on things. But, for me? I also value the comfort that a good ol’ heating pad delivers.
What about you? My advice? Do whatever makes you feel better. Hot, cold, or neither. It’s your body and you know it better than anyone.
(Updated March 27, 2019)
Earth Clinic (Dec. 2017): Natural Remedies for Abdominal Adhesions
EndoEmpowered (Nov. 2016): Stop Using Hot Water Bottles for Endo Pain
Endometriosis News (August 2017): Should You Use Heat for Endometriosis Pain Relief?
Functional Fascia: Fascia Facts
Healthline: Treating Pain with Heat and Cold
LiveScience: (July 2006) Study: How Heating Pads Relieve Internal Pain
Merriam-Webster Dictionary: definition of fascia
My Health Alberta Ca Network: Adhesions Care Instructions
PainScience.com (Jan. 2018): Does Fascia Matter?
PainScience.com (Aug. 2016): Heat for Pain. When and how to apply heat for therapy…and when not to!
PainScience.com (April 2017): The Great Ice vs. Heat Confusion Debacle
PainScience.com (Feb. 2013): Thixotropy is Nifty, but It’s Not Therapy
Peace with Endo: (Jan. 2017) Why I Stopped Using My Heating Pad for Endometriosis Pain
Safety Brief: (Jan. 2015) On the Safety of Heating Pads
Science of Slow Cooking: The Science of Slow Cooking
Sew4Home (Sept. 2014): Organic Fillers for Warming Pads: We Compare Rice, Corn and Flaxseed
Sunbeam: FAQ – How Hot do the Heating Pads Get?
Taber’s Medical Dictionary: definition of fascia
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: Department of Physics: Q&A Water Temperatures
~ Again, I am a layman. I do not hold any college degrees, nor mastery of knowledge. Please take what I say with a grain of salt. If curious, do your own research 😉 Validate my writings. Or challenge them. And ALWAYS feel free to consult with your physician. Always. Yours ~ Lisa