Using Heat And Cold To Treat A Rheumatoid Arthritis Flare
One of the simplest, safest ways to ease joint symptoms from a rheumatoid arthritis flare can be done at home. Applying a warm or cold compress may help relieve RA pain, swelling, and stiffness. This approach works because temperature changes can affect inflammation, blood flow, and nerve sensation.
Keep in mind that heat and cold therapyreferred to as thermotherapy by medical researchersonly affects the area where it is applied. It will not change overall rheumatoid arthritis disease activity or pain/discomfort in the other parts of the body.
Which Is Better For Joint Pain: Heat Or Ice
Anytime you experience pain in a joint, you probably have someone tell you to put an ice pack on it, while someone else tells you to use the heating pad. Both have their advantages and are great ways to save time and money on medical care, but how do you know which one to apply? The short answer is that it depends on whats causing that pain.
These Basic Therapies Can Help Ease Arthritis Pain And Swelling
Two of the simplest, least expensive methods to relieve your pain are heat and cold treatments.
Heat treatments, such as heating pads or warm baths, tend to work best for soothing your stiff joints and tired muscles. Heat enhances circulation, delivering nutrients to joints and muscles. Its good for getting your body limber and ready for exercise or activity. Cold is best for acute pain it restricts blood vessels, slowing circulation and reducing swelling. It also numbs nerve endings, dulling pain.
You can try some of the following forms of heat and cold therapy to find out which provide the best pain relief for you.
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Hot Vs Cold For Pain: Whats The Difference
While both temperatures can soothe pain, they do so in different ways. Heat increases blood flow, nutrients, and oxygen to the affected area and, therefore, works to relax tight muscles. Cold lessens pain by reducing inflammation, muscle spasms, and circulation. While reducing circulation sounds bad, its actually a good thing because less circulation means your blood vessels shrink, which then lessens swelling and bleeding.
Lets explore the different kinds of pain and how each respond when heat or cold is introduced:
What Is The Best Pain Reliever For Severe Arthritis
Anti-Inflammatory Painkillers Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs called NSAIDs help relieve joint swelling, stiffness, and pain and are among the most commonly used painkillers for people with any type of arthritis. You may know them by the names such as ibuprofen, naproxen, Motrin, or Advil.May 18, 2007
Tips To Combine Heat And Cold Therapy In Your Daily Routine
Here are a few tips to help you incorporate the use of heat and/or cold therapy in your everyday activities:
- Keep a heat patch near your beduse it first thing in the morning to warm up your muscles if you wake up with an achy or stiff back
- Apply a cold patch before bed if you have exercised or exerted your back
- Use heat therapy before sleeping and after waking up if you have chronic back pain
- Carry a couple of self-activating heat patches and ice packs in your bag or car to use while driving or at work
You are more likely to benefit from heat and cold therapy when you make these treatments a part of your daily routine.
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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Heat Treatment For Arthritis
Heat treatments using heating pads or taking warm baths, tend to be the least expensive and most effective remedy for soothing stiff joints and tired muscles.
Heat, when applied to the body, enhances circulation, delivering the required nutrients to joints and muscles making the body limber and ready for exercise. Applying heat on arthritis affected joints also alters the sensation of pain.
Some easy ways to use Heat therapy for arthritis include:
If you let hot water or any of above heat treatment measures impact your painful joints for say 5-10 minutes daily, the continuous heat flow on the pain site will keep the pain minimal and help you easing the movements and redefining your limits.
Applying Ice To An Injury
Ice works best for injuries that occurred within the last 48 hours. Perhaps you twisted an ankle or knee and have experienced some minor swelling and pain. An ice pack can restrict the blood vessels and reduce the amount of bleeding into the tissues, reducing the inflammation that is causing the pain and swelling.
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How Often Should I Use Ice Or Heat For Joint Pain
As long as youre being smart about which therapy you use and careful about how to use it, Dr. Torres-Panchame says they are okay to use repetitively throughout the day.
It doesnt need to be a formal sit-on-the-couch-with-your-leg-up type of treatment. You may find youre already benefitting from thermal therapy without even realizing it. If taking a hot shower or bath every morning is very soothing to your joints, then youre already reaping the benefits of heat therapy.
Other patients say that washing their hands with hotter-than-usual water is a quick way to sooth their hands throughout the day. Some people report that they actually like washing dishes after meals because its an easy way to use heat therapy.
Ice Your Back Immediately After Exercise To Reduce Muscle Soreness
Muscle soreness and back pain can occur from extensive workouts, trying a new type of work out, or even from excessive walking. Soreness from these activities may start on the first day but typically continues to peak until the third day.4 This phenomenon is called delayed onset muscle soreness and can cause significant inflammation and pain in your back.
When you have back pain from exercise or exertion, use cold therapy immediately after the activity to reduce tissue damage, inflammation, and pain. After a 24-hour period, use heat therapy to encourage tissue healing.4
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What Are Three Of The Newest Drugs For Arthritis Pain
The advent of a new class of drugs known as biologics has revolutionized the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis . These drugs, which include Cimzia, Enbrel, Humira, Kineret, Orencia, Remicade, Rituxan, and Simponi, must be given via self-injection or intravenous infusion in the doctors office or hospital.Jun 21, 2010
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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When To Use Ice For Psa Pain Relief
Let’s do a symptom check – are your joints currently warm and swollen? Dr. Mala Kaul, a rheumatologist and speaker at the event, stated that cold packs should be used when joints are inflamed and feel hot. “When there is inflammation, you want the blood vessels to constrict, so that’s when cold is good. When you put something cold on the body all the blood vessels start to constrict,” explained Dr. Kaul. This constricting can numb the area, ultimately dulling the pain.
She also advised that heat should never be used on an area that feels warm to touch. Heat to an area that is already hot can cause further swelling and redness.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, cold packs will help to alleviate pain by restricting blood vessels and slowing down circulation which decreases swollen joints and inflammation. It is also useful if the area which is flared feels hot, is red, or has a burning sensation.
Dr. Kaul warns one should never use a cold pack to joints which are stiff or if you have circulatory issues.
Cold packs, bags of frozen veggies wrapped with a towel, or ice baths for the affected areas are all adequate ways to relieve pain using cold temperatures.
Dos And Donts While Using Heat Or Cold For Arthritis
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.
What Are The Different Types Of Cold Therapy
- Ice packs commercially available, can be lower than 0 degrees coming out of the freezer
- Ice baths body part is immersed in 16-18 degree cold water
- Vaporizing sprays very short-lived effect
- Ice massage frozen Styrofoam cups filled with water, used for massaging after the bottom of the cup is peeled off, especially goodfor small areas like ankle sprains
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Should I Use Heat Or Cold For My Arthritis Pain
Its a common question when trying to find relief for your symptoms- should I use heat or cold for my arthritis pain? The answer to this question simply is there are therapeutic benefits to using both hot and cold treatments to help address your pain symptoms, especially the pain associated with arthritis. Both heat and cold treatments can stimulate the body to heal itself. The trick is knowing when to reach for the heating pad or the ice pack or both and how long to use each treatment to alleviate the pain being experienced.
Heat is an effective treatment for loosening stiff joints and soothing tired muscles. It loosens the body up prior to exercise and can help with relaxation and reducing muscle spasms. It also increases blood flow to an area and promotes healing. Heat however is not recommended on swollen, red or irritated joints, that is where a cold pack will be helpful. Cold treatments are effective for acute pain when constricting blood flow aids in decreasing inflammation and swelling.
Cold treatments include applying a frozen gel pack or a frozen bag of vegetables to the affected area, helping to reduce inflammation, leading to joint pain. Switching between hot and cold therapy can offer excellent arthritis pain management benefits, as long as each one is used appropriately.
Getting The Most Out Of Heat & Cold
Often, using both heat and cold can be tremendously beneficialfor those with osteoarthritis, particularly when it comes to exercise . One common approach isto apply heat to the joint to loosen up the muscles and increase blood flowbefore activity, exercise, and then use cold to prevent any swelling and painafterward. This allows many patients to remain active without having to paythe price afterward.
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Alternating Hot And Cold Therapy
Some patients are suggested by doctors to alternate between hot and cold therapy. It depends on the patients condition, so always consult a physician before trying hot and cold therapy yourself at home.
Usually, a patient is suggested to use alternate hot and cold treatment in the following conditions:
- If a patient has to perform a physical exercise, theyre suggested to use heat therapy for warming up their joints before the activity. After exercise, they have to use cold therapy to soothe the warmed up joints.
- If a patient is told by their doctor to use hot therapy in the morning for loosening up their osteoarthritic knee, they have to use cold therapy as well for reducing inflammation a few hours later. This process can be repeated at different times of the day, depending on the patients condition.
Alternating hot and cold therapy has amazing arthritis management benefits provided each treatment method is used appropriately.
Do Hand Exercises Help
Because gripping and pinching tend to aggravate the symptoms of basal joint arthritis, squeezing a ball and similar exercises should be avoided. Some individuals respond well to gentle motion performed in warm water to alleviate morning stiffness. Therapists provide advice about specific exercises if they are appropriate for an individual.
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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
Does Cold Weather Cause Arthritis Or Make It Worse
Winter brings with it a plethora of health complications. Some of these conditions are referred to as seasonal illnesses since the symptoms flare up during the cold season. During winter, one of the conditions that flare up is arthritis.
Arthritis is a condition that affects millions of people all over the world. Characterized by symptoms like pain in the joints and swelling, it is claimed that the symptoms get worse during the cold seasons.
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Tips On Using Cold Therapy For Ra
- Use a bag of frozen peas, wrap ice in a thin towel, or use commercially available cold gel packs for cold therapy.
- Avoid applying ice or cold packs directly to the skin use a towel or cloth between the cold device and the skin.
- To avoid frostbite, do not apply cold for more than 15 minutes at a time.
- Allow your skin to return to normal temperature and color before using cold again.
If you’re using one of these hot or cold methods and it doesn’t bring relief, or it seems to make the rheumatoid arthritis symptoms worse, talk to your doctor.
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