Heating Compress Method, Types, Indications and Uses

Article by Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S
Heating compresses is a therapy used in Hydrotherapy. This also means that water is mainly used in this therapy.
Heating compress is not a therapy where hot compress is given!! 

Related reading – Hot Compression Therapy Types, Procedure, Benefits, Precautions

In fact, in heating compresses, cold application is done. Strange isn’t it?
Let us see what heating compress means and how it works in the rest of the article.


Heating compress is an application of a cold compress to an area of the body. That area of the body is initially cooled by the water and then warmed by the influx of blood to the area.

Thus, a mild application of moist heat for several hours by means of a cold compress applied to a part of the body and covered with dry flannel is called heating compress.


Benefits of Heating Compresses –
Heating compress helps in effective cure of:

  • Sore throat
  • Cold
  • Flu
  • Sinus congestion


Contraindications of Heating Compress

  • All skin conditions irritated by moisture
  • Weak people with low vital force


Procedure of Heating Compress
Principle –
One layer of cotton cloth or linen is wrung from cold water. It is well covered with dry flannel to prevent air circulation and to capture the body heat.

Blood is drawn to the area where the cloth is applied.
The compress soon heats up. Thus the effect of application is that of mild heating.

When heat is set in the skin it leads to dilation of blood vessels of the skin. This brings the blood to the surface. This in turn relieves the congestion at the site of inflammation.

Physiological effects

Physiological effects of heating compress
First stage – Cold
Vasoconstriction takes place
Heart rate increases
Respiratory rate increases
Metabolism decreases
Second State – Heat
Vaso-dilation occurs
Pulse rate raises
Blood pressure drops slightly
Sweating increases
There is increase in oxygen consumption
There is increase in fluid transfer across capillaries

Materials needed

Materials needed for heating compress
Inner covering
– Large and large Cotton or linen (large enough to cover the area to be given with heat compresses, long enough to cover one circumference around that part). Single or double layered cotton shall be taken, double thickness for those who have good circulation and vitality, single layer for those who have moderate circulation and vitality.

Outer covering – made up of 1 or 2 thicknesses of wool, towels. These coverings should be long and wide enough to completely cover the inner layer of cotton cloth and also should extend 2 cm on each side.

Safety pins – needed to secure the compresses in place, alternatively sticky tapes are used
Basin or dish – to store water at desired temperature
Towel – used to dry the area which is given with heating compresses
Wash cloth – to provide cold friction after removing the compress

Preparation and precautions

Preparation and precautions before treatment

  • Care should be taken to wring the cotton cloth in such a way that the water doesn’t drip from the cloth.
  • Compress should be applied quickly and smoothly so as to avoid chilling.
  • The compress should be wrapped snugly to exclude air. Pin securely.
  • The compress should not be tight. If it is tight it interferes with circulation.
  • The compress should not be covered with plastic. Plastic interferes with the reaction.
  • The patient should be intimated about the reaction i.e. inform that the compress will be cold initially but will soon become warm due to body heat once the cover is in place.
  • The patient should be kept thoroughly warm before the treatment begins. Give a hot foot bath if necessary.
  • If the patient is unable to react to cold or dislikes cold, use a dry compress or another treatment.


Giving the heating compress, the procedure

  • Immerse the cotton cloth in cold water.
  • Squeeze (wring) the cloth by removing it from the water so that it is damp but not dripping wet.
  • Keep the compress over the painful area.
  • Wrap it snugly with woolen or flannel material or towel.
  • Pin the covering properly in place by using lot of pins.
  • The compress should be properly fitted so that it does not get cold but not so tight to obstruct circulation.
  • The cold material (compress) should quickly become warm and the patient should feel comfortable and after few hours it will be virtually dry.
  • If warming of the area does not occur promptly, it should be aided by use of hot water bottles or fomentations.
  • Leave the compression in place for several hours between other treatments or overnight. Warming compress can be used up to 4 times per day, with at least 1 hour gap in between.
  • Remove the compress and rub the area quickly with a cold washcloth or alcohol.
  • Dry thoroughly and see that the patient is warm and comfortable.
  • The material should be washed before using it again, to remove the acid wastes absorbed from the body.

Dry Compress

When the patient is too frail or weak to warm the pack up (after application) i.e. when the heating compress doesn’t get warm after few minutes of application to the afflicted part, ‘dry compress’ should be used instead of heating compress (which has wetness). Dry compress is basically the same procedure as heating compress but it is done without wetting the cloth.

Indications –

  • Pleurisy
  • All conditions treated by other heating compresses but the patient is too young, aged, thin, neurasthenic or does not have enough heat to warm up a wet one.

Types of Compresses

Major Heating Compresses

  • Heating Chest Pack
  • Joint Heating Compress
  • Abdominal Heating Compress
  • Heating Throat Compress
  • Dry Compress

Other types of Heating Compresses

  • Cooling Compress
  • Dry Abdominal Bandage
  • Evaporating Compress
  • Foot Pack
  • Head Pack
  • Heating Trunk Pack
  • Hip Pack
  • Hot Chest Pack
  • Hot Hip and Leg Pack
  • Joint Compress
  • Leg Pack
  • Neck Compress
  • Pelvic Pack
  • Perineal Compress
  • Spinal Pack
  • Wet Girdle
  • Wet Sheet Pack etc

Warming socks

Warming socks (wet socks treatment)
Heating compress done to the feet is called warming socks or wet socks treatment.


  • Make sure that the feet are warm and dry.
  • If needed, the feet may be made warm by placing in the warm water, before beginning the treatment.
  • Now, wet a pair of white cotton socks in cold water.
  • Wring them out well and remove excess water.
  • The socks should be damp but not dripping wet.
  • Place the socks on both feet.
  • Place wool socks (preferably 100% wool) over the cotton socks. Go to bed. In the morning, the socks should be dry. Perform this treatment every night as long as the congestion / illness last.

Indications, benefits

Indications and Benefits of Heating Compresses
Heating Compresses soothe and heal a wide array of problems. The names of different types of heating compresses mentioned in this article indicate the sites to which heating compresses could be given. This also suggests that the heating compresses would address the problems therein.

Below mentioned are the indications (and uses) of Heating Compresses –

  • Painful and sore joints (as in arthritis)
  • Mastitis
  • Sore Throat,
  • Back pain
  • Tightness in the chest (in bronchitis etc)
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Foot pain
  • Headache
  • Hip pain
  • Leg pain
  • Spinal pain
  • Perineal discomfort

Just Before Finishing –
In this article I have covered in detail about Heating Compress, which is one of the main types of Hydrotherapy or Kala Chikitsa, a part of Nature Cure. I have also highlighted on the procedure, indications and benefits and types of heating compresses.
Click to Consult Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ayu) – Email / Skype

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