One Simple Inexpensive And Effective Way For Patients To Treat Painful Joints At Home Is The Application Of Heat Or Cold
The trick is to know when to reach for a heating pad and when to use a towel-wrapped bag of ice or frozen peas to ease arthritic pain. We explain how temperature works to soothe a joint, and we distinguish between the type of pain that responds to heat versus the type of pain that responds to cold therapy.
Hot And Cold Therapy For Arthritis Joint Pain
By Diana Rodriguez , Reviewed by Pat F. Bass, III, MD, MPHHas a weekend tennis match left you stiff and sore? Or did you trip on a step and bang your knee? When these and other little aches and pains of life appear, many people reach for a heating pad or an ice pack.Of course, you can also use these quick, effective strategies to alleviate the chronic joint pain of arthritis the trick is knowing whether heat or cold is the best choice to relieve your pain.
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Does Alternating Heat And Cold Therapy Help
Many people find it beneficial to alternate between heat and cold therapy. You can switch between hot and cold therapies throughout the day. Usually, its best to wait at around 20 minutes between sessions, though you can also alternate between hot and cold water in the shower. Always start and finish with a cold treatment.
Talk with your doctor before alternating between full-body treatments such as an ice bath and a sauna or hot tub.
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When To Use Heat To Help Your Hip
The primary intent of a heat based application is to increase blood flow circulation and, as such, stimulate the bodys recovery rate for older or recent injuries, long-term post surgery recovery and more recently for some regenerative therapies performed by doctors and pts. Warmer temperatures should be used approximately 3 to 5 days after you first have the injury or even later if the swelling has not reduced significantly. Heat should not be started for a least 2 weeks after surgery because inflammation levels will be very high as the healing process starts over again. Any use of heat should also be combined with gradual movement to stretch out your hip and increase range of motion.
If you have a chronic hip injury that keeps getting re-injured you should use heat before activity to loosen up your tissue . When used at this time the warm temperatures naturally extend the elasticity of the joint, making it more movable / pliable for activity.
Sometimes we feel pain while doing a certain activity should you still use heat? Using heat in the morning before you start your day or before activity can help to boost the healing process and reduce your risk of re-injury. Too much heat can make your inflammation worse. Cold treatments with a Cold Compress or Ice Pack should be used part-way through your day when you suffer from on-going pain and inflammation it is a natural pain-reliever.
When To Use Ice For Joint Pain
For the most part, ice is appropriate to use within 48 hours of an acute injury or a flare-up of joint pain that comes with inflammation, experts explain. Examples include tendinitis, bursitis, soft tissue injuries, and inflamed joints, Dr. Bose says.
How to Use Ice for Joint Pain
The rule of thumb for icing down an inflamed area is up to 10 minutes on, followed by about 10 minutes off, several times if needed. Dont put ice or a cold pack directly on the skin, unless the cold pack has a built-in barrier, to prevent skin damage. Pay attention to how your body is responding to the cold. Listen to your body, Dr. Bose says. I tell my patients: Use an ice pack, put it on the knee, and once it starts getting uncomfortable, give it a break.
Types of Ice Therapy
You have a lot of options when it comes to icing a joint. At-home solutions like filling a plastic bag with ice cubes and a little water, using a bag of frozen vegetables, or putting a damp towel in the freezer are time-tested for a reason. You can purchase gel packs and other types of cold packs at drugstores or supermarkets. Whatever method you choose, use something large enough to cover the whole area where the pain is located, Dr. Smith says.
Safety with Ice Therapy
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Exercise And Wise Use Of Joints
Another key to coping with pain is to follow an exercise program designed by your doctor or physical therapist.
Your exercise program should include special range-of-motion exercises to help keep your joints movable. It should also include general fitness exercise such as swimming or walking. These help keep your heart, lungs, bones and muscles strong. Exercise also helps relieve stiffness and gives you an improved sense of well-being. Here are some tips to help you exercise properly:
- If you have a flare, do only gentle range-of-motion exercises.
- Start with just a few exercises and slowly add more.
- Listen to your body. If it hurts too much or if you begin to have too much pain, stop the exercise. Ask your doctor or therapist to help you learn the difference between normal exercise discomfort and too much exercise pain.
Using joints wisely and saving energy
Using your joints wisely means doing everyday tasks in ways that reduce the stress on painful joints. Saving your energy means listening to your body for signals that it needs to rest. It also means learning to pace yourself so you dont become too tired. Here are a few guidelines for using your joints wisely and for saving your energy:
How To Use A Heating Pad
All of the electric heating pads we tested are certified by UL, an independent organization that evaluates the safety of myriad materials and consumer products. We spoke to Joel Hawk, principal engineer manager with ULs small-appliances division, about what that means for the safety of someone using certified heating pads. UL extensively tests the temperature regulation of each pad it certifies, along with the fail-safes built into the pads that cause them to stop working rather than overheat or allow the inside of a heating pad to become exposed . Each pad is flexed, twisted, bunched, and squished, and has its cord yanked out thousands of times in ULs laboratories, Hawk told us.
Problems can arise from exposing materials to the high end of a heating pads temperature rangesome clothing, furniture, or other materials react poorly to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. But some public perception of the dangers of a heating pad may come from much older models of electric blankets, Hawk said, which lacked the modern electronic controls of todays equipment. We will note that every heating pad we researched had at least one review alleging an incident in which the pad nearly or could have started a fire. Heat is an elemental, intimidating force, and you should always be aware of what your heated pad is on or near.
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How To Use Consistent Deep Tissue Stretching To Improve Knee Strength & Health
For many people, the treatment wont just end there. Stretching is also an important part of tendon healing and its the final stepneeded when healing your knee injury with conservative treatment methods.
You would be suprised by how many people there are that dont understand the importance of stretching a knee injury. Before returning to full activity after an injury, physical therapists prescribe gentle stretching This is because stretching is the secret of healing any soft tissue injury. Consistent stretching is one of the only solutions available to break up scar tissue that forms on your knee as it heals.
Stretching with use of a Cold Compress or Ice Pack and TShellz Wrap® is even better!
When Should You Call A Doctor
If your knee pain doesn’t improve after you use heat or ice for a few days, or your pain gets worse, it’s a good idea to call your doctor. You may need other treatments that will help you heal and reduce your pain.
Our dedicatedmusculoskeletalteam ishere for you at all stages of life, withthe most advanced treatments and therapies available in thearea.From arthritis and osteoporosis to trauma care, joint replacement and more, you can be sure that our providers are highly experienced in their chosen specialty to provide you with the best treatment available.
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Types Of Heat Therapy For Arthritis
There are several types of heat therapy, called thermotherapy, options for arthritis. Heat therapy improves circulation and causes your blood vessels to expand. This helps your body to deliver more blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the affected area, which may reduce inflammation, stiffness, and pain. Heat therapy may also improve mobility, which makes it easier to relax, loosen up, and move.
If a heat therapy session causes swelling, redness, or inflammation avoid further treatments until your symptoms subside. Avoid using heat therapy during a flare-up or the acute stage of an injury. Talk with a healthcare professional before using heat treatments if you have heart disease or high blood pressure.
Do not use heat therapy if you have any of the following conditions:
- multiple sclerosis
Applying Heat Or Ice For Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain
Many people diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis take relief wherever and whenever they can find it. After all, this autoimmune disorder affects the joints and causes pain, discomfort, stiffness, and more. Through trial and error, many people find that hot or cold treatments make their joints feel better.
Heres what to know about using hot and cold methods to help manage your rheumatoid arthritis pain.
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Will A Heating Pad Help With My Dog’s Arthritis
Will a Heating Pad Help with My Dog’s Arthritis?
Yes, it can. What people don’t realize is that arthritis isn’t just a disease of the joint. The original source of the pain is within the joints. But as that dog starts to weight shift away, because the joint is painful to stand on or to push forward on, they then start using other parts of their body more than they would have done otherwise. And that can create muscle tension and muscle spasms.
How Can a Heating Pad Help?
And heat is wonderful for treating that form of discomfort. You can also use heat to try and warm up the joints that are stiff. So if your dog’s been laying down or they’ve been asleep overnight, and you can see that they’re really quite stiff in the morning, putting a heating pad over the area, say their knees or their hips, can push some heat into the tissue and allow some of the elasticity to come back so they can move more freely. So heat is wonderful.
When shouldn’t you use a heating pad?
You don’t want to put heat on inflamed joints. So if you are having a flareup of your dog’s arthritis, and their knee feels warm, don’t put heat on them. That’s just not going to be pleasant at all.
For additional information about canine arthritis, check out Dr. Capon’s work at Canine Arthritis Management.
Create Healthy Red Blood Cells
As briefly mentioned above, healthy red blood cells provide the oxygen from the lungs into the affected regions of your body. So when applying heat to the part of your body which as arthritis, its important to heave healthy red blood cells for the best results. Having a poor diet while applying heat therapy may not produce the results you are after.
The minerals that help produce healthy red blood cells and make you feel less tired and weak due to lack of oxygen being dispersed around the body include:
Foods That Can Produce Healthy Red Blood Cells
- One of the health benefits of Kale is that it is great for red blood cells. Kale has the important Vitamins A, B6 and B9.
- Red meat, fish and dairy are great sources of B12.
- For extra iron its good to eat organ meat such as liver or kidney.
- Peas, beans and lentils are good sources of Folic Acid.
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Protecting Your Joints In The Winter
Here are steps you can take to help ease the or reduce the risk of your symptoms worsening in colder weather:
Wear warm, protective clothing. Layering your clothing is best for warmth. To protect your hands, wear mittens instead of gloves, but if you must wear gloves, look for compression gloves. Protect your feet with warm socks and boots.
Use heat packs. Small heat packs in your pockets can keep your hands warm while you are outside.
Use heating pads on your sore joints. Be sure to have fabric between the pad and your skin, and dont use a high enough heat to cause a burn. If you have diabetes, speak with your doctor or team before using heat on your feet or toes.
Move around as much as you can. Exercise can help loosen , reducing pain. If you live in an area with ice and snow that make walking outside dangerous, consider joining a gym or indoor activity, like dancing or tai chi. Walking around the mall is exercise too.
- Look into mood-altering techniques if you find your mood is affected in the winter, which could contribute to more pain. Try using a light for seasonal affective disorder , meditation, or yoga to keep a calm mind and reduce stress.
You dont have to dread the winter months with RA. If you find cold weather worsens your symptoms, talk with your doctor about treatments or other lifestyle tips that can keep you moving with less pain all year long.
Yes Heat Enhances Circulation
One impact that heat can have on the body is that of improving circulation. Poor circulation flow in the body means that nutrients which are fed to the joints and tissues can be slower in making their journey. It makes sense that a body where circulation is improved and nutrients are delivered in an efficient way could be a body that has a lower level pain and a better way of coping with pain.
By applying a high quality heat pad with infrared therapy the blood will flow and circulate much better. Infrared works in a different manner to a traditional heat pad. A traditional heat pad will heat up the surface and heat very little inside the body. Whereas a infrared heat pad will work through invisible infrared rays .
The infrared rays penetrate much deeper into the body. As far as several inches at a time. This is ideal for people with arthritis as it gets right into the painful joints where the pain is sever. The infrared will start heating inside of the body and not on the surface of the skin. So this is also preferred for people with arthritis as it wont burn the skin.
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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.
Bring On The Sweet Relief
You take your meds, as you should. Maybe you see a physical therapist regularly or do yoga now and then to help manage arthritis symptoms also smart moves. But even if youre good about sticking to your treatment plan, there will be mornings when its tough to get your body moving. And there will be times when stiff, achy joints make tasks tough. And that is when you should try heat therapy.
Heat therapy is primarily used to decrease pain and improve muscle flexibility in patients with arthritis, says Maura Daly Iversen, PT, associate dean of clinical education, rehabilitation, and new initiatives at the Bouvé College of Health Sciences, Northeastern University.
Heat therapy wont change or improve your condition, but it can help relieve arthritis symptoms. A review of research published by Cochrane found that superficial moist heat can be used as palliative, or supportive, therapy for people with rheumatoid arthritis . Studies also showed paraffin wax baths combined with exercises help relieve arthritic hands.
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