Grandma's age-old advice to use hot water press treatment on the stomach to halt abdominal pain, such as colic or menstrual pain, has been scientifically proven by a UCL (University College London) scientist.
Dr Brian King, of the UCL Department of Physiology, led the research that found the molecular basis for the long-standing theory that heat, such as that from a hot-water bottle applied to the skin, provides relief from internal pains, such as stomach aches, for up to an hour.
"The pain of colic, cystitis and period pain is caused by a temporary reduction in blood flow to or over-distension of hollow organs such as the bowel or uterus, causing local tissue damage and activating pain receptors," said Dr King.
"The heat doesn't just provide comfort and have a placebo effect it actually deactivates the pain at a molecular level in much the same way as pharmaceutical painkillers work. We have discovered how this molecular process works," he added.
The analysis of the study revealed that if heat over 40 degrees Celsius is applied to the skin near to where internal pain is felt, it switches on heat receptors located at the site of injury. These heat receptors in turn block the effect of chemical messengers that cause pain to be detected by the body.
"The problem with heat is that it can only provide temporary relief. The focus of future research will continue to be the discovery and development of pain relief drugs that will block P2X3 pain receptors. Our research adds to a body of work showing that P2X3 receptors are key to the development of drugs that will alleviate debilitating internal pain," Dr King said.