Heating Compress

Dr Kellogg

Dr Kellogg says...

Heating Compress

Few measures... are capable of producing more disastrous results than the heating compress when improperly used, and especially when so applied that prompt reaction does not occur. The slow but prolonged chilling produced by the evaporation resulting from the loosely applied or imperfectly protected heating compress, when not indicated as a therapeutic measure, is certain to result in visceral congestion and aggravation of the condition for which it is applied, with rheumatic pains and numerous other inconveniences, both general and local. The effects, in fact, are precisely opposite of those desired. There is no other hydriatic measure the success of which depends more wholly upon exact technique; and few which yield more gratifying results when properly applied. p 829

Heating Compress


from Hydrothermic Remedies...

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

Blood is drawn to the area and the compress soon heats up, so the effect is that of mild heating.

Heating to the skin makes the skin blood vessels dilate, bringing blood to the surface and relieving congestion at the inflammation site.



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.

Physiologic Effects

  1. First stage - Cold
    1. Vasoconstriction
    2. Increased heart rate
    3. Increased respiratory rate
    4. Decreased metabolism
  2. Second stage - Heat
    1. Vasodilation
    2. Raised pulse rate
    3. Slight drop in blood pressure
    4. Increased sweating
    5. Oxygen consumption increased
    6. Fluid transfer across capillaries increased

Major Heating Compresses

See Special Compresses for full list

  1. Heating Chest Pack
  2. Heating Throat Compress
  3. Joint Heating Compress
  4. Abdominal Heating Compress
  5. Dry Compress - see below


  1. When the patient is too frail or weak to warm the pack up. Use a "dry compress" instead which is the same but without wetting the cloth. See below.


  1. Cotton or linen large enough to cover the area and long enough for one circumference of the part. Old sheet is good.
  2. Outer covering of one or two thicknesses of wool, flannel or towels long and wide enough to completely cover the cotton cloth and extend 2cm on each side.
  3. Safety pins to secure the compress in place, or use sticky tape.
  4. Basin of water at desired temperature (usually tap water).
  5. Towel to dry the area.
  6. Wash cloth for cold friction after removing the compress.


Important Considerations

  • Wring cotton cloth so that it does not drip when applied.
  • Apply compress smoothly and quickly to avoid chilling.
  • Wrap snugly to exclude air and pin securely. **Very Important**
  • Take care that the compress is not so tight as to interfere with circulation.
  • Do not cover with plastic, it interferes with the reaction.

Preparation for Treatment

  • Tell the patient that the compress is cold but body heat will soon warm it after the cover is in place.
  • The patient should be 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.


    • Immerse cotton cloth in cold water.
    • Wring compress out so it does not drip.
    • Apply the compress and wrap snugly.
    • Pin securely, use lots of pins.
    • If warming does not occur promptly, it should be aided by Hot Water Bottles or Fomentations.
    • Leave in place for several hours between other treatments or overnight.

    Completion of Treatment

    • Remove the compress and rub the area quickly with a cold washcloth or alcohol.
    • Dry thoroughly and see that patient is warm and comfortable.
    • Chart treatment, time applied and reaction.

    Dry Compress


    1. Pleurisy
    2. All the 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.


  • Exactly the same procedure as for the 'wet" but do not wet the cotton cloth. The outer wrap may be wrapped over a dry thin cotton undershirt if desired and cover with a long-sleeved wool sweater.

Other Types of Heating Compresses


from Dr JH Kellogg's Hydriatic Techniques...

Local for


  • follow technique exactly


from Dr GK Abbott's Prescriptions...

Mild Derivative and Sedative or Tonic if it dries out.

Stronger Derivative if covered as sweating occurs.

Reflex muscle relaxation and vasodilation in related areas.