One of the most common symptoms of endometriosis is pelvic pain. This pain can accompany a person's menstrual period and take the form of severe cramping. Endometriosis-related pain can also accompany sex or bowel movements. It may also be chronic (long-term) without an apparent trigger.1
Endometriosis-related pain and cramping can negatively impact quality of life, and finding ways to manage it may be important. Home remedies for pain management may help reduce cramping and pelvic or abdominal discomfort. These remedies are often used along with traditional treatment options for endometriosis. One such home remedy is the use of heat (sometimes referred to as thermotherapy).2,3
Heat therapy may help provide relief from cramping or pain and can take on various forms. Moist heat can come in the form of warm baths, warm wet towels, or moist heating packs. Dry heat can come from electric heating pads or dry heating packs. Moist heat often penetrates the skin and muscles faster than dry heat. This may make it more effective than dry heat over shorter periods of time.1,4,5
Using heat therapy is a personal process. For example, 1 person may respond well to warm baths, while another may only respond to electric heating pads. However, some people may not experience any pain relief from heat.
How heat may help reduce endo pain
Doctors do not know exactly how heat works to reduce endometriosis-related pain and cramping. Heat does increase circulation, open up blood vessels, heal damaged tissue, relax muscles, and affect pain receptors in the body. These actions may be how heat reduces pain. Heat can sometimes lead to stress relief. This reduction in stress may also contribute to pain relief.4,5
Things to note about heat therapy
Heat therapy is not for everyone. Although heat therapy is often considered a home remedy, it is important to check in with your doctor before regularly using it for your endometriosis pain. This is to determine what kinds of heat therapy might be right for you and how long you can use them for at a time.
Some heat therapies may only be used for a maximum of 20 minutes or less, especially when they are directly touching the skin. Other methods, such as a warm bath, may be taken for 1 to 2 hours depending on the temperature of the water. People with sensitive skin or those prone to burning should not use heat therapy unless approved to do so by their doctor.
Heat therapy is not for all injuries or conditions. For example, heat therapy should not be used for bruises or on areas with heavy bleeding. Heat therapy can increase blood flow to these areas. Instead, cold therapy, such as ice packs, should be used in these situations.