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Is Hot Or Cold Good For Arthritis

Why Is Arthritis Worse In The Winter

Is hot or cold better for arthritic joints?

Jan 11, 2022Amy Paturel

If you suffer from arthritis, whether inflammatory or not, you’ve probably noticed your joints getting crankier as the weather turns colder. But why are arthritis symptoms worse during the winter?

“Our joints operate best in temperate weather,” says Dr. Mariko L. Ishimori, Interim Director at the Cedars-SinaiDivision of Rheumatology. “When the weather gets cooler, the synovial fluid that acts like motor oil in our joints becomes more like sludge.”

Some people are so sensitive to the weather that their aching joints act as a signal that a storm is coming.

When Should You Use A Heat Treatment For Bursitis

Heat / warming temperature treatments work best to increase blood flow circulation and reduce risk of a cyclic injury process. Warmer temperatures should be used approximately 3 to 5 days after you first have the injury once initial swelling has calmed down. For post-surgical recovery, 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 shoulder with the intent of increasing range of motion .

If you have a chronic bursitis injury that wont seem to go away, you should use heat before activity to loosen up soft tissue in the joint . This treatment is shown to increase the elasticity of the soft tissue in and around the treatment area further to this, heat will also lengthen soft tissue. The benefits of increased length and flexibility of soft tissue mean it will be more pliable for activity and less likely to re-injure .

We believe the use of TShellz Wraps® for boosting blood flow in the area of application is one of the most under-utilized home treatment options available on the market today. We have client after client that have tried many options out there and have been amazed at how effective and fast the TShellz Wrap treatment can relieve pain and increase localized blood flow in the treatment area.

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Which Types Of Heat Therapy Help Arthritis Pain

You can choose from the following popular types of heat therapy for arthritis pain:

  • disposable heat patches or belts available at most drugstores
  • warm whirlpool or hot tub
  • warm, moist towel or cloth

You may also sit on a stool that has rubber tips for safety while letting the warm shower hit the affected area. The constant heat flowing on the arthritic joint or pain site helps to keep pain minimal and allows for easier movement.

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When To Use Heat For Joint Pain

Heat tends to be more beneficial for the types of everyday joint pain, such as stiffness, that people with arthritis experience. You can use dry heat, like from a heating pad, or moist heat, like from a moist towel warmed up in the microwave for 20 to 60 seconds. Moist heat tends to transfer through the skin more quickly and efficiently, Dr. Torres-Panchame says.

How to Use Heat for Joint Pain

As a guideline, dont apply heat to an area of your body for more than 20 minutes at a time or you could risk burning your skin. As with ice, dont put a heated object on your skin without some kind of protective barrier, like a cloth or towel. Heat also can follow ice therapy once the cold brings down swelling and inflammation, Dr. Torres-Panchame says.

As with ice, being careful and attentive is important to prevent injury. If something feels too warm, then probably its too warm, Dr. Bose says. So the temperature needs to be comfortable, ideally, not too hot, because it can burn your skin.

Types of Heat Therapy

Safety with Heat Therapy

Check your skin after five minutes to make sure there are no signs of burns and check again a few times while using heat, Dr. Torres-Panchame says. If you start seeing blisters forming, that is too hot. You need to remove the heat or else you can cause skin damage, she said.

This is especially important for people who have neuropathy or any other condition that makes them less sensitive to touch and temperature.

Briefly What Is Neuropathy


Neuropathy is a condition where there is some kind of damage to your peripheral nervous system. This involves an intricate network of nerves that leads from your brain, through your central nervous system in your spinal cord, and throughout all parts of your body.

When the nerve fibers in your body, arms and legs are stimulated, the nerves send a signal back to your brain. If there is damage to any of the nervous in your body, these nerves will misfire and send unpleasant signals to your brain. People with neuropathy report abnormal sensations like burning, tingling, numbness, and even paralysis. In order to alleviate these sensations, people try all kinds of treatments, including heat.

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How Does Heat And Cold Help Arthritis Pain

Heat or cold therapy works by stimulating your body’s 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.

What Temperature Is Best When Using Heat Therapy For Arthritis

When using moist heat therapy, make sure the temperature is not so hot that you burn your skin. Find a temperature that you can comfortably tolerate, whether using a bath, hot water bottle, or spa therapy.

You also need to give it time to work. Use the moist heat application for at least 15 minutes before exercise. Then use it again immediately following exercise. You can also use moist heat anytime you want additional relief from arthritis pain.

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What Are The Risk Factors Of Arthritis

The following factors can increase your risk of developing arthritis:

  • A family history of arthritis can increase your likelihood of developing the joint disease.
  • Aging can increase the risk of arthritis like osteoarthritis, gout, rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Women are more likely to develop arthritis than men.
  • Previous joint injury can enhance the degenerative changes within the joint , increasing the risk of arthritis.
  • Overweight or obese people have more compressive pressure on their joints.

How To Use Hot And Cold Therapy For Arthritis

Heat therapy or cold therapy? Hot water bag or ice pack? What works in arthritis?
  • Wednesday, June 17, 2020, 2 years ago

Are you suffering from arthritis and looking for an easy way to relieve the paining joints? You can easily treat pain and aches associated with arthritis by simply applying hot and cold therapy on the affected joints. According to medical specialists, there are different types of heat and cold therapies, such as hot shower, water bottle, ice pack, cooling cream, ice pack, etc.

The hot cold therapy is an inexpensive and convenient alternative treatment for alleviating inflammation, stiffness and pain from arthritis-affected joints. While heat helps in relaxing and lubricating muscles, cold can reduce pain, swelling and inflammation on the joints during activities.

You should use hot therapy whenever you feel joint stiffness and want to relieve muscles or simply to ease out a muscle spasm. The cold therapy is generally suggested for specific arthritis types that cause painful inflammation flash ups, such as pseudogout and gout. You may even benefit from hot and cold therapy if youre suffering from osteoarthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and rheumatoid arthritis.

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How Does Heat Work

When I say heat, what I mean is a warm compress, hot water bottle or wheat cushion applied to an area of skin around an injury. You could also get these effects from a hot bath or shower, but this would be a less targeted way of treating your knee.

Heat works roughly in the opposite way that ice works. It, too, has a number of effects to the body when applied around an injury:

  • Heat causes an effect called vasodilation to the blood vessels around an area which means a widening of the vessels, increasing blood flow to an injured site. You wouldnt want to use heat on a recently sprained ankle
  • Heat doesnt affect the nerves like ice does, but it does increase healthy blood flow to an area, which can speed up healing in some injuries . It also helps to flush away the nasties within the blood that invade an injured area.
  • Heat has an effect on the surrounding muscles and joints whereby it loosens them up by making the soft tissues more elastic. This basically means you get more flexibility in a body part just by heating it up! Try to stretch a muscle in the cold, then try to stretch the same muscle after a hot shower youll find you can stretch much further after the heat treatment.

Heat Works For Pain Relief Because Of The Actions Mentioned Below

  • Increases blood supply to the affected area, resulting in increased flow of nutrients to the area and faster flushing out of wastes or toxins.
  • Penetrates cells and tissues, facilitating increased oxygen uptake and enzyme activity and, consequently, tissue healing
  • Stimulates sensory receptors to block pain signals to the brain, resulting in instant and effective pain relief
  • Specifically in arthritis, it decreases the viscosity of joint fluid, and the less-thick fluid offers better joint lubrication. It also improves the elasticity of adjacent connective tissues
  • Provides warmth, which in turn provides a feel-good effect

Just like heat, such as that in sauna, can soothe a troubled mind and nervous system, it also soothes an arthritic joint. Apply for about 15-20 minutes for mild pain and/or stiffness and about 30 minutes for moderate pain.

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The Benefits Of Vitamin D

Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones, teeth and muscles, as well as your immune system. You get most of your vitamin D from direct sunlight when your skin is exposed to ultraviolet rays.

According to Cancer Research UK, the length of time you need in the sun to make enough vitamin D depends on skin type, time of day or year, and where you are in the world.

There are no set guidelines on how much time is needed in the sun, but those with lighter skins may need just 10 minutes of sunlight every day in the UK, while those with darker skin may need around 25 minutes.

There are guidelines on vitamin D supplementation for everyone in the UK, says Professor Walker-Bone. But if youre worried about your vitamin D levels and joint pain, its important to get advice from your GP or rheumatology team. They can check your vitamin D levels, ideally in the winter months when they are likely to be lower.

Some people find their psoriasis gets better when theyre out in the sun, but more research is needed to see if sunlight helps psoriatic arthritis.

Natural sunlight can help skin psoriasis, but doesnt seem to help joint symptoms, says Professor WalkerBone. Many people with psoriatic arthritis dont have very bad skin, so PUVA treatment cant help.

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Cold definitely increases pain and stiffness for Angela K., 50, who has rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. One of her favorite tricks is to sleep with two heated blankets one on top, one on bottom, forming a heated cocoon she can lie in. On cold mornings, Ill often just soak in the warmth for a good 15 minutes before getting up, she says.

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What Is Heat Therapy

The role of heat therapy is to increase blood flow by dilating, or opening up, blood vessels. The goal here is to increase pliability, flexibility and mobility of the muscles and joints, elaborates Dr. Rama.

Individuals can use methods of dry heat, such as heating pads, dry heating packs or saunas, or moist heat, such as steamed towels or hot baths, to target the pain areas. Moist heat is believed to be more effective and act more quickly, says Dr. Rama. But keep in mind the location of pain. If it is a small, localized area, heated gel packs may be best. If its a larger part of the body, though, steamed towels or hot baths may be more effective.

Are There Any Risks Or Detrimental Effects When Using Heat Or Ice

Yes, there are.

Both heat and ice can cause burns if the heat pack is too hot, for example, or an ice pack is left on the skin for too long. As aprecaution, heat and ice packs should be wrapped in a towel before being placed onto the affected body part, and the skin underneath shouldbe frequently checked. As a general rule, ice packs are used for 20 minutes, and then removed for 1-2 hours, before being applied again.

People with certain diseases should not use ice therapy:

  • Raynauds disease
  • Cryoglobinaemia

Heat and ice should not be used if your skin sensation is impaired , because there is a high risk that you could suffer burns. This often happens in people suffering from diabetes. As a precaution, a hot/cold skin test is performed before applying heat or ice: two test tubes are filled with hot and cold water, and alternatively placed on the skin if you cant feel the difference, you should not use heat or ice.

Cold therapy can cause hypertension , while heat can cause blood pressure to drop, especially if large areas are treated. If you suffer from hypertension or hypotension , you should be careful with cold or heat therapy.

Heat or cold therapy should not be used over open wounds, damaged skin, or if you suffer from skin conditions like dermatitis or rashes.Heat should also be avoided over areas that have recently bled .

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Whats The Best Temperature For Cold Therapy For Arthritis

Theres no general scientific consensus about how cold cryotherapy should be. Ultimately, its down to what is comfortable for you and what provides the most relief. It may take a few sessions to find your preferred temperature.

If your doctor recommends or prescribes using a cold therapy machine, they will be able to explain the temperature settings for your particular model.

What Are Heat And Ice Therapy

Try Hot and Cold Therapy Daily to Eliminate Bone and Joint Pain

Simply put, heat therapy and ice therapy also known as thermal therapy mean applying something hot or cold to an affected area, which can affect how your body responds to pain, stiffness, and other arthritis symptoms.

Many arthritis patients swear by both heat and ice as part of their treatment plan whether for osteoarthritis, which is wear and tear to a joint that occurs when the cartilage breaks down, or inflammatory types of arthritis, which is when inflammatory chemicals from an overactive immune attack the joint.

For Eddie A., who has psoriatic arthritis, warm baths are a go-to part of his self-care routine. In fact, before he was diagnosed with PsA, he would find himself needing to sit in the tub for 30 to 45 minutes each morning before work just to loosen up my hands, he recalls.

Heat and ice are everything for me, Deanna K., who also has psoriatic arthritis, told CreakyJoints.

In its latest treatment guidelines for the management of osteoarthritis, the American College of Rheumatology conditionally recommends thermal interventions for osteoarthritis in the knee, hip, or hand, for example. In other words, theres likely little harm in trying it, but its not a magic bullet.

Even though heat and cold are opposites, they can both reduce inflammation and ease pain and stiffness around the joints. They do so in different ways and may have different uses. That said, there is little scientific research on when to use one form over another.

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Instructions To Do Heat Therapy At Home

If youre going to use a heating pad, moist heat pads, or hot water bottles:

  • Make sure you dont burn your skin. The heat should feel nice, otherwise, it wont promote relaxation.
  • Do it for 15-30 minutes, up to 3 times per day.

Another option is taking a hot shower or a warm bath. I recommend doing this at the end of the day, as it can help you sleep better.

And The Short Answer Is

Fortunately, whether youve used hot or cold compresses overthe years, research shows that both are effective for helping peoplesuffering from osteoarthritis. When heat is applied to a joint, it causesthe blood vessels to dilate, increasing blood flow to the area, which in turncan help with pain and inflammation. On the other side of the coin, cold causesthe blood vessels to constrict and numbs the tissues, which can help with acutediscomfort.

In the end, whichever one you choose, science shows that itcan help soothe a troubled jointits mostly up to your preference. Whether youget your heat from a hot shower, warm washcloth, or heating pad doesnt matteras well. The same applies to using a bag of ice or frozen peas. The only thingto keep in mind is that either method should only be applied to the skin in10-15 minute incrementsany longer than that could potentially damage it.

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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?

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During your recovery, you will probably have to modify and/or eliminate any activities that cause pain or discomfort at the location of your soft tissue injury until the pain and inflammation settle. Always consult your doctor and/or Physical Therapist before using any of our outstanding products, to make sure they are right for you and your condition. The more diligent you are with your treatment and rehabilitation, the faster you will see successful results!

Hip Injury Facts:

Over 90% of hip fractures are caused by falling, most frequently on the side of the hip.

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Hip alignment affects the pressure put on the knees. A hip disorder can aggravate knee pain and vice versa.

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