How Often Should I Use Heat Or Cold Therapy For Arthritis Pain
Try to use moist heat or ice packs at least twice a day for the best relief from pain and stiffness.
According to the American College of Rheumatology, five to 10-minute ice massages applied to a painful area within the first 48 hours of pain onset can provide relief. So can heat, which relaxes the muscles. Heat should be used for pain that lasts longer than 48 hours.
Cold Therapy For Arthritis
At-home cold therapy is an accessible, affordable way to keep arthritis pain in check, with different types and durations of treatment available to fit with any lifestyle.
Whether using a specialized ice pack helps you feel better or you receive a prescription for longer sessions with a cryotherapy machine, cold therapy for arthritis can help you manage arthritis symptoms and recover more comfortably from injuries.
If you regularly feel discomfort in your joints, it may be time to consider at-home cryotherapy as a way to make your days more comfortable.
For more helpful recovery and injury prevention resources, read on:
How To Apply Hot And Cold For Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain
Both hot and cold care are safe to apply when used correctly. Still, you may want to talk to your doctor, rheumatologist, or additional health care provider to see what they recommend. Ask about specific products and application methods. You may need to try several different options find the ones that work best for you.
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Appendix 1 Medline Search Strategy
1 exp osteoarthritis/ 2 osteoarthritis.tw. 3 osteoarthrosis.tw. 4 degenerative arthritis.tw. 5 exp arthritis, rheumatoid/ 6 rheumatoid arthritis.tw. 7 rheumatism.tw. 8 arthritis, juvenile rheumatoid/ 9 caplan’s syndrome.tw. 10 felty’s syndrome.tw. 11 rheumatoid.tw. 12 ankylosing spondylitis.tw. 13 arthrosis.tw. 14 sjogren$.tw. 15 or/114 16 heat/tu 17 .tw. 18 cryotherapy.sh,tw. 19 .tw. 20 exp hyperthermia, induced/ 21 .tw. 22 .tw. 23 or/1522 24 clinical trial.pt. 25 randomized controlled trial.pt. 26 tu.fs. 27 dt.fs. 28 random$.tw. 29 placebo$.tw. 30 adj ).tw 31 sham.tw. 32 or/2431 33 23 and 32
S Of Using Cold Therapy
Different methods of cold therapy include:
- A bag of frozen vegetables: Wrap a bag of frozen peas or something similar in a thin, damp cloth or towel and apply it to the affected area. A bag of ice cubes can also be effective.
- A frozen towel: Take a damp sponge or dampen and fold a towel and place it in the freezer for around 15 minutes. Remove it from the freezer, place it in a plastic bag or thin cloth and apply it to the affected area.
- Reusable DIY cold packs: Fill a clean, spare sock with rice and place it in the freezer, or fill a resealable plastic bag with liquid washing-up detergent. Take out of the freezer when necessary.
- Ice or gel cold pack: Buy an ice pack or gel pack to freeze. Choose the shape and size suitable for the affected areas.
- Ice massage: Take a paper cup, fill it with water, and place it in the freezer. Once frozen, peel away the top part of the cup, leaving a small section at the bottom to hold onto. Rub the exposed ice in small circles over the sore area, avoiding any part where the bone is close to the skin, such as the elbow point or kneecap.
- Instant ice packs: People can buy single-use ice packs that they snap to activate. These may be useful when other options are unavailable.
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Does Cold Therapy Help Arthritis Pain
Yes. Cold packs numb the sore area and reduce inflammation and swelling. Ice packs are especially good for joint pain caused by an arthritis flare. You might also try using a local spray such as fluoromethane on your back or painful area before and after exercise. This superficial cooling decreases muscle spasms and increases the threshold for pain. Or you can make instant cold packs from frozen bags of vegetables.
Some patients prefer cold therapy to moist heat for arthritis pain, while others tell of having the best relief when they alternate the sessions with moist heat and ice. You can experiment with moist heat and ice therapy and then select the method that gives the best relief with the least trouble or expense.
Sip A Mug Of Golden Milk
Nothing feels as good as a hot drink on a cold day and golden milk isnt just comforting the turmeric spice that gives the beverage its characteristic golden color has been shown to reduce arthritis pain, Dr. Martin says. Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory. You can take it as a supplement but on chilly days, make it into golden milk, a traditional hot Indian drink made from any type of milk, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, pepper, and a dash of maple syrup. Turmeric showed measurable improvements in arthritis symptoms in a meta-analysis published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition.
Surprising Facts About Arthritis Pain
Even though pain may interfere with work relationships and daily life few Americans talk to their doctors about it. Did you know:
- Fewer than half of Americans with severe or moderate pain report that they have a great deal of control over their pain.
- Fewer than half of people who visit their doctor for pain believe that their doctor completely understands how their pain makes them feel.
When To Chill And When To Heat
Many of these conditions are treatable with medication as prescribed by your health care provider. And, for other situations, over-the-counter pain relievers may be enough to help. But you still may need further relief so here are a few tips to keep in mind when deciding between ice or heat for aching muscles and joints.
Reminder: if any of these conditions are new or dont resolve quickly, be sure to contact your health care provider for more treatment options.
First of all, do not use heat on acute injuries because that extra heat can increase inflammation and delay proper healing.
When dealing with injuries, its best to predominantly choose ice if the injury is acute . The chill constricts blood vessels which numbs pain, relieves inflammation and limits bruising.
If youre sensitive to cold then ice may initially seem uncomfortable or even painful to apply. Heat can feel warm, cozy and be tempting to toss on an injury, says primary care sports medicine physician Anne Rex, DO. But dont be fooled! Ice wins to shut down swelling, inflammation and pain early on where heat may actually make an injury worse.
If youre dealing with lingering injuries then its okay to use heat. The increased blood flow relaxes tight muscles and relieves aching joints. This is especially helpful to improve range of motion on a joint that maybe isnt moving as well.
Muscle strains and sprains
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Hot Therapy For Rheumatoid Arthritis
For someone with an inflammatory disease like RA, applying heat may seem counterintuitive. But since heat works to reduce muscle tension and stimulate blood circulation, many patients find that applying something warm even if it just means warming your clothes in the dryer before dressing, or lying with a heated blanket prior to getting up in the morning simply feels good on the joints.
Heat can be effective because it helps to relax the muscles, the American College of Rheumatology notes.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, when you warm up a sore joint, the heat enlarges your blood vessels, allowing more blood, oxygen, and nutrients to be delivered to the tissues.
Although there arent recent studies for rheumatoid arthritis, researchers conducted a study on 35 people with chronic, nonspecific neck pain that was published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in August 2020. They found that those receiving thermotherapy with a salt-pack for 30 minutes twice a day for five days improved stiffness more than the control group.
“Gentle heat in the morning can improve your range of motion,” explains Katie Palmer, a physical therapist in Newtown, Pennsylvania. “It can relieve some of the joint pain and the stiffness and prepare your body for exercise or to get up and get moving and out the door.”
Palmer recommends paraffin therapy for the hands when they’re stiff, like first thing in the morning, but not when the joints are inflamed.
Heat Therapy For Rheumatoid Arthritis
Heat helps improve your pain tolerance and relaxes muscles, both of which can reduce the pain of rheumatoid arthritis. Heat treatment remains a standard part of the physical therapists practice. But you dont need to visit a physical therapist to reap the benefits of heat therapy. Here are some techniques you can use at home.
Warm bath or shower. A hot tub or a bathtub equipped with water jets can closely duplicate the warm-water massage of whirlpool baths used by professionalsfor most people, the bathtub works nearly as well. Soaking for 15 to 20 minutes in a warm bath allows the weight-bearing muscles to relax.
A warm shower can also help lessen the stiffness of rheumatoid arthritis. You can upgrade your shower with an adjustable shower-head massager thats inexpensive and easy to install. It should deliver a steady, fine spray or a pulsing stream, usually with a few options in between.
After a warm shower or bath, dress warmly to prolong the benefit.
Paraffin bath. Some therapists recommend a paraffin bath. You dip your hands or feet into wax melted in an electric appliance that maintains a safe temperature. After the wax hardens, the therapist wraps the treated area in a plastic sheet and blanket to retain the heat. Treatments generally take about 20 minutes, after which the wax is peeled off. Paraffin bath kits are also available for home use, but talk with your physical therapist for recommendations and cautions before you buy one.
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How To Safely Apply Ice And Heat
You can apply ice and heat in lots of ways. Our experts generally recommend up to 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off:
- Ice packs: Frozen peas or corn, ice cubes in a baggie or frozen gel pack. You can ice beyond 48 hours, until swelling, tenderness or inflammation are gone.
- Ice massage: Freeze water in a Dixie cup, peel back the top, and massage the tender area until its numb. .
- Cold masks: Place a cold mask, available at drugstores, over your eyes or lay a towel soaked in cold water over your forehead and temples.
- Moist heat: Enjoy a bath, shower, hot tub or whirlpool using warm, not hot, water .
- Heat wraps: Drape a heat wrap, available at drugstores, around your neck like a scarf .
- Heating pads: To avoid burns, remove heating pads if the area becomes uncomfortably warm.
Cold Treatment For Arthritis
Using Cold treatment is best for acute pain it restricts blood vessels, slowing the blood circulation and reducing the swelling near the pain site. It also numbs your nerve endings dulling the pain to significant levels.
Cold packs numb the sore area around the joints and reduce inflammation and swelling. Ice packs are especially recommended for joint pain due to an arthritis flare.
Many sprays are available in the market to provide superficial cooling when applied on joints. This diminishes muscle spasms and elevates the threshold for pain.
You can use cold treatment for arthritis by using any of the following ways:
When applying cold treatments, be careful that it is not too cold to cause long numbness in the joints. Ice treatment when applied carefully can result in enormous reliefs in arthritis impacted joints.
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How And When To Use Ice
Actual ice, ice packs and other cold therapies can help reduce knee pain and muscle spasms. Conventional medical wisdom suggests using ice to treat an acute injury or pain that occurs after activity. Put another way: Apply heat before your activity and cold after you return home. Cold can numb pain, decrease swelling, and block nerve impulses to the joint.
A review article summarizing six studies suggests cold therapy can be an effective way to relieve knee pain. One study showed that ice massage performed for 20 minutes, 5 days per week, for 2 weeks improved range of motion, function and knee strength among individuals with knee osteoarthritis.
To prepare to perform an ice massage, fill a Styrofoam cup with water and freeze it. When removed, that rounded block of ice fits your hand perfectly for performing knee massage.
Another study found that ice packs used for 3 days per week for 3 weeks improved pain just as well as no treatment. Importantly, there were no side effects seen with cold therapy in any of these studies.
To explore the benefits of cold therapy for knee osteoarthritis:
- Apply a bag of ice wrapped in a towel or a gel-filled cold pack to the painful area for about 10 minutes.
- Wrap a towel around a bag of frozen vegetables and place it on sore joints for pain relief. Tip: Frozen peas or other vegetables mold to your body, making them ideally suited for treating knee pain.
Thermotherapy For Treating Osteoarthritis Of The Knee
To answer this topic, scientists found and analyzed three studies. Over 170 people with osteoarthritis continue to take their medications but used hot, cold or ice packs/towels with or without massage or no treatment. The studies were not of high quality but this Cochrane review provides the best evidence we have today.
What is thermotherapy and how might it help osteoarthritis of the knee? Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis that can affect the hands, hips, shoulders and knees. In OA, the cartilage that protects the ends of the bones breaks down and causes pain and swelling. Thermotherapy involves applying heat or cold to joints to improve the symptoms of osteoarthritis and can be done with packs, towels, wax, etc. Heat may work by improving circulation and relaxing muscles, while cold may numb the pain, decrease swelling, constrict blood vessels and block nerve impulses to the joint. Thermotherapy can be used in rehabilitation programmes or at home. How well does thermotherapy work? One study showed that massaging with ice for 20 minutes, 5 days a week for 2 weeks, improved muscle strength in the leg, the range of motion in the knee and decreased time to walk 50 feet compared to no treatment.
Another study showed that ice packs for 3 days a week for three weeks improved pain just as well as no treatment.
How safe is it? No side effects were reported in the studies, but in general, studies report that thermotherapy is safe when applied carefully.
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The Best Cold Therapy Machines For Arthritis
Ice is a good remedy for arthritis pain. However, people with chronic or severe arthritis symptoms may need more prolonged or controllable cryotherapy for arthritis. Thats where cold therapy machines with cryo cuffs come in.
The cryo cuffs wrap around the affected area and direct cold fluids into the surrounding material, providing a therapeutic dose of cold and some compression to boot.
Using Heat Or Cold Remedies For Arthritis
A major concern that arises is how exactly should one apply these methods or how often can they be used? We recommend using moist heat or ice packs in any of the above-mentioned forms at least twice a day for significant relief from your pain and stiffness.
In a research conducted at the American College of Rheumatology, they stated that five to 10-minute ice massages applied on the pain site within the time span of first 48 hours of pain onset can provide relief effectively. So can heat treatment, which relaxes the muscles in the body. Heat packs should preferably be used for pain that lasts longer than 48 hours.
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Should You Use Ice Or Heat For Joint Pain
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Medically Reviewed by UPMC Orthopaedic Care
Whether arthritis or injury is causing your joint discomfort, youve probably received varying and maybe even contradictory advice on how to manage it at home. Hot and cold therapy are two of the most common treatments for joint relief but when should each of them be used? Heres how to know whether to use ice or heat for joint pain.
The appropriate treatment for pain depends on its source. Joint pain may be the result of:
- An injury, such as a sprain, strain, or fracture.
- A viral infection.
Arthritis, one of the most common causes of joint discomfort, encompasses more than 100 conditions. Among the most typical forms are:
- Rheumatoid arthritis an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks healthy joint tissue and causes inflammation.
- Osteoarthritis deterioration of the cartilage that protects bones and joints.
- Psoriatic arthritis which causes internal and external inflammation.
- Gout a condition in which acid builds up in a joint and causes inflammation.