Are Heating Pads Good For Arthritis
Heat therapies, like warm baths and using heating pads, work best in relieving tired muscles and stiff joints because heat promotes blood circulation. Cold treatments are also suitable for arthritis, but we will be focusing on heat therapies using heating pads.
Is a heating pad good for arthritis? Applying heat to the affected area is an economical way to ease aches and pains related to arthritis. Heat relaxes stiff joints and muscle spasms. Some data showed that patients suffering from arthritic pain felt more comfortable after heat therapy sessions.
How Do You Use Ice / Cold As Pain Relief For Your Hip Injury
COLD is used to treat injuries or conditions that are red, hot, inflamed, swollen and suffering from tissue damage . Cold is a natural / organic pain reliever that numbs pain right at the source of your injury. While doing this, the cold also stops cellular break-down and reduces the amount of scar tissue forming .
When cold is applied to a hip injury, soft tissue in the hip will constrict and squeeze on the blood vessels to slow down your blood flow. This in turn clamps down on the amount of fluid leaking into your injured tissue, decreasing swelling. This is why cold is used immediately to treat acute injuries or re-injuries basically, newly damaged soft tissue. The cold slows down your body to reduce the amount of damage happening to soft tissue and decrease the swelling. This cold also has a nice side benefit of numbing nerves in and around your hip, further decreasing your pain.
In the medical world this is something called Vasoconstriction.
Cold can Make Your Soft Tissue Injury Worse How?
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 don’t 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.
Don’t Miss: How Do I Know My Dog Has Arthritis
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.
Heat And Common Chronic Pain Conditions
Many chronic pain conditions are affected by the heat and humidity during the summer months.
- Arthritis. A study shows that nearly 5% older people with osteoarthritis reported hot weather influences their joint pain. People with inflammatory arthritis experience pain when the temperature changes and humidity increases because it affects the way joint tissue expands and contracts, therefore triggering pain.
- Headaches & Migraines. Temperature changes trigger tension-type headaches and migraines. The fluctuation in temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure during warmer months can lead to dehydration, which commonly triggers headaches.
- Fibromyalgia. The National Fibromyalgia Association links weather and fibromyalgia symptoms when the weather is humid. People who suffer from rheumatological conditions have temperature sensitivity meaning any extreme temperatures can have worsening symptoms and heightened pain.
- Multiple Sclerosis . While pain has not always been a recognized symptom of MS, it plays a huge role in this chronic neurological disease. Anything that raises the bodys temperature can worsen MS symptoms. This means a hot summer day can make the pain worse and it is so common, that theres even a name for this: Uhthoff Syndrome. However, once a person cools down, the symptoms typically go away.
Recommended Reading: How To Ease Arthritis Pain In Foot
When To Use Heat Vs Ice
Conventional wisdom says this:
- Cold therapy reduces blood flow to the area, which can decrease swelling and inflammation. This can be especially soothing if you have an acute injury say, your joints hurt worse than usual because you were gardening all weekend.
- Heat therapy increases blood flow to the area, which helps blood vessels dilate, drawing in more oxygen and nutrients. This can be especially soothing for stiff joints, especially for people who experience morning stiffness because of arthritis.
As this Cleveland Clinic article says, for an acute injury, such as a pulled muscle or injured tendon, the usual recommendation is to start by applying ice to reduce inflammation and dull pain. Once inflammation has gone down, heat can be used to ease stiffness.
If youre choosing between ice and heat, for the most part, it really just depends on what type of problem youre dealing with, says Brett Smith, DO, a rheumatologist at Blount Memorial Physicians Group in Alcoa, Tennessee. Youre trying to get the opposite effect of whats going on. If youre physically swollen, you want to try and cool that down to allow you to have less pain. If youre not physically swollen, then youre trying to heat it up to increase blood flow to help with the healing process.
Both ice and heat therapy may decrease the transmission of pain signals to the brain, which can also help with pain relief.
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.
Read Also: Is It Arthritis Or Something Else
Cochrane Review: Thermotherapy Versus Cryotherapy
A Cochrane Review assessed three randomized, controlled clinical trials involving 179 patients with knee osteoarthritis. Patients were allowed to continue taking their medications but also used hot, cold, or ice packs and towels, with or without massage. They were compared to a control group receiving no treatment. Reviewers looked for outcomes of pain relief, reduction of edema/swelling, and improvement of knee flexion , range of motion, and function. Here are the results of the Cochrane Review:
- The first of the three studies revealed that massaging with ice for 20 minutes a day, five days a week, for two weeks improved muscle strength in the leg, improved range of motion in the knee, and resulted in less time needed to walk 50 feet, compared to the control group.
- The second study showed that knee osteoarthritis patients using ice packs for three days a week for three weeks had no significant improvement in pain compared to patients receiving no treatment.
- The third study indicated that cold packs applied to the knee for 20 minutes, ten times, resulted in decreased swelling compared to the control group who received no treatment. Hot packs used for the same amount of time had the same effect on swelling as the control group who received no treatment.
Dont Miss: Arthritis Flare Up In Hands
Is Cold Or Humidity Worse For Arthritis
Anecdotally, doctors who treat people with arthritis, as well as researchers who study factors that affect arthritis symptoms, hear over and over that certain kinds of weather namely, cold fronts, where theres a drop in barometric pressure and an increase in humidity makes peoples arthritis pain and swelling
Also Check: Can You Get Arthritis In Your Shoulder
Tidbits On Beating The Heat
To prevent the heat from aggravating your underlying pain, here are some tips on staying cool.
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water and limit alcohol and caffeine intake.
- Choose shade over basking in the sun or indoors with an air-conditioner or fan.
- Wear loose-fitted cotton, breathable clothing and wear a hat and sunglasses when outside.
- Carry a water bottle around with you or a mini-fan to keep cool.
- Apply a cold washcloth to your neck or run cold water over your wrists to quickly cool yourself down.
The Donts Of Applying Cold Packs For Arthritis
- Cold application is known to worsen the stiffness. Therefore, in general, cold packs should be in case of chronic muscle pain and on stiff joints.
- Never use cold packs on a shivering or febrile person, even the one suffering from arthritic pain you may confuse the brain by sending wrong temperature signals, thus aggravating the already bad condition! Remember, the doctor said, use tap and NOT ice water for sponging your febrile sibling?
Recommended Reading: What Arthritis Is An Autoimmune Disease
Heat Therapy Helps Relax Stiff Joints
Learn different ways to ease joint pain using warm water or a hot compress.
Heat Therapy Helps Relax Stiff Joints
Learn different ways to ease joint pain using warm water or a hot compress.
Looking for a natural way to get your joints moving in the morning? Close the medicine cabinet and try an age-old remedy that has stood the test of time: heat.
If you have a chronic condition like fibromyalgia, arthritis, or lower back pain, try heating things up. Soaking in warm water or applying a heated compress is one of the oldest, cheapest, and safest forms of complementary therapy. Research has shown that heat treatments can loosen stiff joints and relieve achy muscles.
Here is how it works. When you warm up a sore joint or tired muscle, your blood vessels get bigger. This allows more blood, oxygen, and nutrients to be delivered to the injured tissues. Better circulation means more relaxation for those stiff muscles and joints.
Stay away from heat if you have an acute injury or are having a flare. If you have a sudden onset of swelling and redness from overdoing it yesterday, you are better off using cold treatments for a few days. Cold has the opposite effect of heat: it reduces blood flow and decreases inflammation.
Here are a few simple ways to heat up your daily routine.
Here are a few simple ways to heat up your daily routine.
Take a Steamy Shower
Apply a Warm Compress
Dip your hands or feet in melted paraffin wax . Wait for it to cool and peel the wax off.
Is It Really The Temperature Or Is It Your Mood
Some experts believe that hot or cold weather can influence a persons mood, and then this can influence how that person perceives paina reasonable argument.
On the contrary, though, in the above study on osteoarthritis, even after controlling for factors like anxiety and depression, people who described themselves as weather-sensitive still experienced more joint pain than people who were not weather-sensitive. This hints that mood problems do not fully explain the link between joint pain and weather sensitivity.
Still, it makes sense that a temperature change can impact a persons emotional health, which can then impact how they perceive or interpret pain.
The big picture here is that it seems too commonly reported to dismiss a temperature changes influence on pain. So, while your worsening pain is real and not in your head, your emotional well-being likely plays a role, albeit it may be small.
Recommended Reading: Can You Get Arthritis In Your Lungs
Managing Your Arthritis In Warmer Weather
Weve been lucky to enjoy some warm days recently and while most of us love a bit of sunshine, the warmer weather can affect some people with arthritis.
People with arthritis often say that they can predict the weather based on how their joints feel. Some notice their pain and stiffness flares up in the cold and wet winter months, while others find hot and humid summer weather can make symptoms worse.
Dr Alastair Dickson, GP and health economist with an interest in rheumatology and arthritis, and trustee of the Primary Care Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Medicine Society, says that some people are more sensitive to the weather than others.
It is unknown why weather affects arthritis pain, he says. One theory is that people are less active in cold, damp weather and keeping active is known to help relieve arthritis pain.
An alternative theory is that changes in barometric pressure affect the pain you feel. Temperature sensitivity is a common symptom of fibromyalgia, and extremes in temperature, whether it be hot or cold, can trigger flare-ups.
Limit Exposure To Sun And Heat
- I have to be very careful being in the sun the heat is hard on me. I do all my outside work and run all my errands early in the morning.
- I stay inside the house, use light cotton clothes and go to the beach in the late afternoon around 5 pm, just for a short stay.
- I wear lightweight and light-colored, often sleeveless outfit.
- I carry around a water bottle, a spray bottle and an umbrella just in case I need to cool off more outdoors.
- I always wear light clothing, and a hat with a wide brim, sunglasses and I carry a bottle of water with me.
- I try not to go out between 12:00-3:00 when its the hottest.
So many of you shared how important it is to monitor the weather and limit your exposure to the sun and heat. Planning errands in the morning when the sun is less intense or wearing lighter clothing are great tips to keep cool if you do need to head out!
You May Like: What’s Good For Arthritis In The Back
Need Pain Relief While You Work
I have tried heat and cold for my bursitis, but I am still in pain?, you say. Or maybe you need relief to just get through the work day. This is exactly why we created Workvie. Work vie , is for hardworking people like you that may still be working or wanting to get back to work, but your bursitis pain may be getting in the way. Lets face, carrying around ice and heat packs is not very convenient. You may want to try a numbing and anti-inflammatory cream like Workvie® Work Pain Relief System. You can use the cream during your work breaks to get relief throughout the day when you cant apply heat or cold compresses. It has an amazing scent that wont embarrass because nobody wants to smell like grandma.
Workvie is a product brand dedicated to helping people that work with pain.
If your bursitis pain persists for more than two weeks, seek your health care provider as soon as possible.
This article is not intended to replace the advice of a medical doctor. Please consult with your primary physician.
- Oosterveld, F. G. J., et al. The effect of local heat and cold therapy on the intraarticular and skin surface temperature of the knee. Arthritis & Rheumatology2 : 146-151.
- Lehmann, Justus F., ed. Therapeutic heat and cold. Williams & Wilkins, 1990.
Save 10% on Your First Order when you sign up to our newsletter.
Suitable for Sensitive Skin
Invest In A Programmable Thermostat
For me it isnt so much the cold that causes flares, its huge temperature fluctuations, like when its 80 degrees one day and 50 the next, says Amy S., 26, who has psoriatic arthritis. To help keep her environment a consistent temperature, she had a programmable thermostat installed that lets her see the current temp and tweak it with much more precision than a traditional thermostat. I also moved my bed away from the window to avoid cold air coming in that way, she adds.
Recommended Reading: What Can I Do For Arthritis In My Hands
How Does Heat And Cold Help Arthritis Pain
Heat or cold therapy works by stimulating your bodys own healing force. For instance, heat dilates the blood vessels, stimulates blood circulation, and reduces muscle spasms. In addition, heat alters the sensation of pain. You can use either dry heat such as heating pads or heat lamps or moist heat such as warm baths or heated wash cloths.
Conversely, cold compresses reduce swelling by constricting blood vessels. While cold packs may be uncomfortable at first, they can numb deep pain.
Read Also: How To Cure Arthritis In Shoulder