We often use heat as a modality in the hand therapy clinic to warm up the hands in preparation for therapy. A paraffin bath is one of the more intense forms of applying heat.
During the hot wax treatment, the hand is immersed in a “spa” of melted paraffin mixed with mineral oil. The oil lowers the melting point of the wax (to about 120 degrees) and makes it tolerable for the body part to be immersed. The hand is dipped 4-5 times with a brief pause in-between dips to let the wax set. This layering creates a thicker coating of wax. After the last dip, a plastic bag is placed around the waxed hand; then towels are wrapped over the plastic to hold the heat in for 5-10 minutes. Because of the oil in the paraffin, it slides off the hand smoothly when the treatment is complete, leaving the hands feeling soft, moisturized and warm.
The Paraffin Bath is useful for several conditions.
- The intense heat is good for circulation.
- The penetrating heat can ease aching.
- It is often used in arthritic conditions with good relief of joint pain.
- Aching from chronic repetitive injuries may also respond well to the wax treatment.
- Stiff joints will feel more flexible after an application of wax.
- Good for arthritic stiffness.
- Also works well with stiffness caused by fractures, dislocations and other trauma.
- Scars respond well to the heat and the coating of mineral oil, making them softer and more pliable in preparation for scar massage techniques.
Do not use a paraffin bath in the following situations:
- If there is numbness in the hand.
- If you have an open wound.
- If you have an injury that is acute, hot, swollen, inflamed.
To keep the paraffin bath as clean as possible, wash your hands well and dry them thoroughly before immersing in the wax. If you have purchased your own machine, you can re-use the wax (however, we do not re-use wax in the clinic).
Paraffin Baths are easily available, both online and in local stores and pharmacies. Simple and small home units are priced around $40. A larger, more durable model can range in price from about $80 to close to $200.
It is possible to make your own bath at home using an old pot in a double boiler or an old crock pot set on low. This can take a bit of time each session for the wax to melt. Once melted, turn off the heat and monitor the temperature until the correct temperature is achieved. It is important to use a thermometer to make sure that the wax is not too hot in order to avoid burns. The temperature should be 120-125 degrees.
- 2-4 blocks of paraffin
- 1 ounce of mineral oil for each block of paraffin
- drops of essential or scented oils as desired (optional)