Early on my mother introduced me to my first heating pad. It became a constant companion when my period came around and on any day where I felt cramps or lower back pain.
About three months ago, my heating pad stopped working. I went to get a new one at the store and saw that they were buy one, get one half off, so I sprung for two extra large ones.
I finally had full coverage: front and back. I was wrapped in heat. Glorious.
I used the heating pads on my lower back and abdomen every day for hours at a time. I kept them on the hottest setting. It was the only way it helped.
Many times my lower back would feel numb from the extended period of time on the heat. I’d come away with marks on my belly and back that lingered in patterns of red.
Stop Using Heat for Endometriosis Pain
Included was a video she did with Chris Toal, Director of Wellness at Work Ltd. Chris specializes in deep myofascial release massage. He specializes in endometriosis and has helped over a thousand women with endometriosis feel better. (See more about him and testimonials from other endo sisters here).
His suggestion: stop using heat for endometriosis pain.
I couldn’t give up my heat. No way. How would I live without my heating pad? These thoughts swirled in my mind when I closed the email.
There must be some mistake. The heat made me feel better. How could it be bad?
The Role of Fascia, Adhesions & Scar Tissue
It goes back to the role of fascia. Fascia is a band or sheet of connective tissue beneath your skin that’s primary made of collagen. It’s flexible and surrounds your muscles or other internal organs.
Your abdomen and lower back are covered by a layer of fascia. It’s right underneath your skin.
According to myofasical manipulation theories from Ida Rolf, it’s proposed that connective tissue is a colloid substance that can be influenced by the application of energy – heat or mechanical pressure.
Fascia has a consistency like gel. So, according to Ida’s theories, it can turn to liquid if you heat it up, or it can get really hard like an old, stale gummy candy that you can barely get a knife through.
Think about it like Jello. It’s made from gelatin, which comes from collagen in different animals. What happens when you heat up gelatin in its hardened state? It liquifies. Then when it cools off it becomes solid again.
This is bad news if you have adhesions or scar tissue from endometriosis. Scar tissue is made of collagen!
So the idea is that once the fascia cools down and resets from its liquid form, it adds to the collagen in the adhesions and makes them tougher.
Adhesions are a major cause of pain with endometriosis. By heating them all the time, the process repeats.
Are You Addicted to Heat?
The heat provides temporary relief because it’s essentially numbing that fascia layer, so there’s temporarily more movement.
Over time it takes more to numb the fascia layer. You need hotter and hotter levels. The process becomes addicting.
I was most definitely addicted to heat. I needed hot temperatures to get any relief, and like I mentioned, I’d walk away with my back and front numb. My skin was a near permanent shade of red.
The relief was temporary. Obviously. I was using my heating pads almost all day long!
Further proof of my addiction was my reaction to this new information. I didn’t want to believe it. I didn’t want to stop using my heating pad.
Heat Elimination Trial
Even though I had this new information, I didn’t stop right away. I continued to put the heat on my belly. But I couldn’t get it out of my mind. Was my heating pad really doing me harm?
I struggled to release the companion that’d traveled with me for over a decade, to accept the truth that what provided relief was actually not serving me.
The only way to stop the cycle was to stop the heat.
So, that’s what I did. I stored my heating pads away. Out of sight, out of mind.
At first it was hard. I missed my heat. I missed the way it relaxed me, the way it warmed me up. But I persevered and stayed away from it for a couple of weeks.
Until I came home from walking my boxers with a sore lower back (the price of a crazy boy dog that’s still learning to walk properly).
Forget it, I thought, as I pulled out my old friend. I set the heating pad up against the back of the chair and sat back on it. Ahhh. Instant relief.
But what happened next was enough to convince me. Once the heat was off and my back cooled down, the pain got way more intense and this followed into the next day.
Was the heat making things worse? I tested it again. Same result. The heat made the pain worse!
After cutting out the heating pad for a couple of weeks and introducing it back in, this was evident.
On the Positive Side?
If you’re like me you may be thinking, no heat? What do I do when pain strikes?
To help you with some ideas I put together a free guide with 25 natural pain relief strategies.
I’m not ready to give up my baths, but I have been more conscious of the water temperature. Warm is Ok, just don’t make it super hot.
Are you addicted to heat? What do you think?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.