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After an intense workout at the gym, curling up in bed with a hot compress may be just what the doctor ordered. Inflammation, muscle tightness and stiffness will dissolve away from the blissful warmth. If your home medicine cabinet is fresh out of hot water bottles, don't bother going to the store. Make a homemade compress in a snap with supplies you probably have on hand.

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Fill a large microwavable bowl with about a pint of water. Microwave the water on high for one minute, then remove the bowl from the microwave. Use oven mitts if necessary when handling a hot bowl. Or heat the water in a saucepan on the stove for five minutes.

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Set the bowl on the counter and insert a clean cotton cloth into the warm water, submerging it until it is saturated. Squeeze out the excess water so that it doesn’t drip.

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Fold the cloth into a rectangle and tear off a piece of clear plastic wrap that is large enough to cover the cloth. Place the cling wrap over the cloth to help seal in the moisture and the heat.

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Place another dry cotton cloth over the plastic wrap to prevent it from tearing and to absorb any excess moisture. If desired, wrap medical tape around the edges of the two cloths and plastic wrap to hold the compress together.

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Place the compress over the ailing body part with the cloth side facing your skin. Apply medical tape or an elastic bandage around the body part and the compress to hold it in place.

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Leave the compress on until it cools to room temperature. If desired, reheat the bowl of water and dip the compress into it again. Apply fresh tape to reapply the compress to your skin.


Insert herbs or essential oils in the center of the folded compress, if you like. Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of arnica oil to relieve sprains, bruises and swelling. Add chamomile flowers for earaches, skin problems and general pain.


Do not use warm compresses on skin that is punctured, broken or bleeding.

Always test the water to ensure that it is warm, not scalding, before applying the compress to your skin.

Consult a physician if you're experiencing severe pain.

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About the Author

Kimberly Johnson

Kimberly Johnson is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in various online publications including eHow, Suite101 and Examiner. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and began writing professionally in 2001.