How to Apply Heat to Your Muscles Before Stretching

Alternating heat and ice packs can help heal strained muscles.

Alternating heat and ice packs can help heal strained muscles.

Anyone who's ever tried to go back to the gym the day after a killer workout knows the agony of muscle pain. While your grimace face may make you look tough, it's no fun to limp through your workout. Applying moist heat to sore muscles can help you stretch more deeply. According to Dr. Oz, fresh injury and inflammation call for ice packs, while chronic aches or minor muscle pain call for moist heat.

Relax for 15 to 20 minutes in the hottest bath you can comfortably stand. Submerge your aching muscles the entire time. If you have a whirlpool bath, turn on the jets and allow them to massage the sore body part.

Fill a sink with very hot water if you choose not to go the hot-bath route. Soak a hand towel while you complete Step 3.

Add a filler such as uncooked oatmeal, beans or rice to a microwaveable plastic zipper bag. Place the bag in the microwave for up to three minutes, testing it every 30 seconds to see if it feels hot to the touch. When it's warm enough, hold the bag by the zipper with a hot pad and shake it to distribute the heat evenly through the filler material.

Remove the towel from the hot water, using tongs if necessary, and allow it to cool until you can comfortably touch it. Wring out all the excess water and wrap the towel around the plastic bag.

Lay the heat pack over your sore muscles for 15 to 30 minutes. If necessary, unwrap the towel, reheat the bag and wrap it in the towel again before reapplying.


  • Do not put a heating pad on a fresh muscle strain. Ice the injury until the inflammation goes down.
  • See a doctor if you suspect a serious injury.

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About the Author

S.R. Becker is a certified yoga teacher based in Queens, N.Y. She has a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and has worked as a writer and editor for more than 15 years. Becker often writes for "Yoga in Astoria," a newsletter about studios throughout New York City.

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