Warm Compress Tips for the PatientsCreated by:
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Warm compress is a very popular adjunct to pain medications for relieving pain. However, a lot of people are using warm compress inappropriately. It is our role as healthcare providers to correct some misconceptions of warm compress.
Patient education should center on the following:
* Temperature - it should feel warm and not hot or scalding. Application of compress that is hot may cause skin burns.
* Duration - 20 minutes of warm compress is ideal. Studies have shown that there were no additional pain relief or other benefits from using warm compress for more than 20 minutes. Extending application beyond 30 minutes will only increase risk for burns.
* Time of application - Warm compress is generally not ideal for use during the first 48-72 hours of pain onset. It causes vasodilation that will cause influx of inflammatory mediates and further swelling. It increases sensitivity of muscle spindles and Golgi tendon organs that will worsen muscle spasm, if present. Use of warm compress is ideal after 3 days from first onset of pain. However, immediate warm compress application is indicated for some ophthalmologic conditions to facilitate drainage of infection.
* Frequency - Warm compress should be done at least 3x a day to optimize physiologic benefits such as pain relief.
* Interval - Interval between compress application should be at least one hour to prevent skin burns.
For the MIMS community, what are the other instructions that you provide to patients who will benefit with warm compress application? Do you know of other conditions that require immediate warm compress application instead of cold packs?