Does Cold Therapy Help With Arthritis
Cold therapy for arthritis is a safe, well-tolerated, and effective treatment for arthritis pain and swelling, particularly in the joints. Applying ice to a swollen, stiff, or painful joint reduces blood flow to the area and can have a numbing sensation that reduces the pain associated with arthritis.
A 2019 study using rats found that applying cold therapy to a specific area of the body improved rheumatoid arthritis symptoms like inflammation and swelling. While its not definite whether these benefits transfer to humans, the study suggests a lot of promise for cryotherapy for arthritis as a way to manage discomfort at home.
Is Heat Or Cold Better For Arthritic Knees
If Id get a penny every time a patient asks me, is heat or cold better for arthritic knees? I would be rich. See, it depends on the type of arthritis and your preferences.
Heat tends to be better for tight muscles and knee osteoarthritis. While cold therapy may be best for fresh injuries, gout, and rheumatoid arthritis.
This isnt set in stone, though. You may want to test both of them to discover which one works best for YOUR arthritis symptoms.
Keep reading to learn how and when to use heat and cold to help knee arthritis symptoms. Heres what Ill cover, tap on any bullet to go straight to the section:
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.
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Water As Heat Therapy
In general, I do not recommend soaking or prolonged submerging of an open wound. Although whirlpool baths used to be widely used with burns and wounds, we now know that such practices create a breeding ground for infection.
I would say the majority of my clients with arthritis report that they start each day with a long, hot shower to help them slowly work out their joint stiffness and help them get moving.
Soak in a tub of warm water, or a garden tub with jets. Some clients use Epsom salts in the bath.
A small number of my arthritis clients have jacuzzis or hot tubs. In Texas, taxes paid on these spas are reimbursable with a doctors letter. These units have jets to agitate the water. Some have jets and spouts that can be directed to specific areas on your body, which can act as a mini-massage.
However, exercise caution with spa tubs. The warm water is not only relaxing, it decreases blood pressure. When public spas say limit to 10 minutes, this is related to drops in blood pressure that can potentially be dangerous. Never go in the spa alone. There is a very real danger that you could pass out from low blood pressure.
- Overwhelmingly clients with arthritis experience decreased achy pain and stiffness in their hands after wearing resting hand splints for sleeping.
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Saunas And Steam Rooms
You can use a dry sauna, infrared sauna, or steam room to improve circulation and alleviate stiffness.
The results of a 2018 review suggest that consistent use of a dry sauna is beneficial for people with rheumatoid arthritis as well as chronic pain syndrome. It may also help athletes to improve performance.
You can stay in a dry sauna or steam room for up to 15 minutes though you may want to begin with shorter sessions. Give yourself plenty of time to cool down in between sessions.
If youre pregnant, talk with your doctor before using a sauna or steam room.
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Headaches: Ice Or Heat
The right treatment depends on the type of headache you have. Headaches caused from tension can benefit from heat therapy, which helps relax tight muscles throughout the neck and jaw, says Jeffrey Yellin, DPT, CSCS, at Professional Physical Therapy. Sinus headaches can also benefit from the use of heat therapy to help warm nasal passages and loosen some of the built-up secretions. Migraines, or other vascular induced headaches, tend to respond better with the use of cold therapy.
You could also try these home remedies for headaches.
What Does Warmth And Warming Better Help With
Arthritis. Any chronic pain in joints and muscles, because heat increases blood flow.
Headache. Only if it is accompanied by spasms in the neck area the heat relaxes the muscles.
Sprains of muscles and ligaments. It helps well against numbness, however, heat compresses and heating pads can be used only after the body and medications have coped with the inflammation, otherwise you can make things worse.
Tendinosis a chronic feeling of numbness in the tendons near the ligaments. Heat fights well with it.
fever is good in all cases when the pain or injuries are chronic and they are at least a month and a half. The heat increases the blood flow, which relaxes the muscles and ligaments.
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Has Knee Pain Impacted Your Daily Activities
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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
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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.
The Donts Of Applying Hot Packs For Arthritis
- Now, it isnt difficult to guess that heat can make acute inflammation worse. Heat should NOT be applied in acute pain, acute injuries, and in bleeding, even when these occur to an arthritic joint. Applying heat to a fresh injury will only worsen the pain.
- Do not use heat if you have any open wounds or substantial bruises
- Not recommended for patients with diabetes
Note: Tiger balms and other capsaicin-containing topical ointments are only spicy that is they make you feel hot they do not increase heat physiologically. They distract our mind from pain they do not affect pain.
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Icing Or Heating Joints Can Provide Pain Relief And Reduce Swelling But Knowing Whether To Go Cold Or Hot And Knowing How To Use Each Form Of Thermal Therapy Can Be Tricky
Sometimes old-fashioned home remedies are just what the doctor ordered. Take using ice or heat for joint pain, for example. When your knee or your shoulder feels stiff, sore, or has a burning sensation, cooling down or warming up the affected area can help provide relief.
Its more of symptomatic relief, says Nilanjana Bose, MD, a board-certified rheumatologist with the Rheumatology Center of Houston. The pain may remain but because gives symptomatic relief, over time that will help, in conjunction with other medicines, heal the area.
But knowing when to use ice and when to use heat for pain relief can be confusing, especially if youre dealing with an ache or issue that youve never dealt with before. Although you should see a health care provider if youre experiencing consistent pain, its helpful to know what treatments can help provide immediate relief, especially if you arent able to see your doctor right away.
So, the question remains: when should you use ice versus heat to ease joint pain? Well, it mostly depends on the cause and type of joint pain youre experiencing, though personal preferences matter, too. After all, nobody knows your own body like you do.
Below, we provide information on when to use heat or ice for joint pain relief, as well as some tips to make your treatment more effective.
Heat Therapy May Be Superior For Knee Osteoarthritis Pain
If you have knee osteoarthritis, using heat therapy can be a life-saver.
It can help relax your tight muscles, reduce stiffness, and prepare your joints for physical activity.
In people with this condition, studies recommend using moist heat every other day for 20 minutes at a time, for 4 weeks at least. It may help decrease pain while improving your knee function.
You can maximize these results by pairing this protocol with the medication your doctor prescribed and doing a rehabilitation program.
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Can Hot Baths Or Spas Help Arthritis Pain
Many people with arthritis find relief from pain and stiffness with hot baths or spas. The moist heat increases muscle relaxation, boosts blood supply to the site of pain, and relieves rigidity and spasms in the muscles. But avoid hot tubs or spas if you have high blood pressure or heart disease, or if you are pregnant.
Use Mineral Oils And Rubber Gloves
If PsA affects your hands, try this simple method. First, rub mineral oil on your hands. When youre ready, place them in a pair of rubber gloves and run warm water over them. You can do this for about 5 to 10 minutes.
You can use cold therapy at home during flares to soothe inflammation. Here are a few methods you might find helpful.
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Is Heating Pad Good For Arthritis
Heat treatment for cold pain can be done using various heat therapy devices such as a heating pad, a hand towel soaked in hot water, a heat pack, a hot water bottle or a warm water soak. While using these devices
- Ensure the temperatures are comfortable- not too high to risk skin burns
- Place a cloth between your skin and heat source to prevent burns
- Do not use heat directly to injured or cut the skin
- Do not apply heat for over 20 minutes
On the other hand, using cold therapy may include using such devices as a cold pack, a bag of frozen vegetables or a bag of ice. In this case, it is also recommended
- Not to use cold therapy if you have circulatory problems
- To use a cloth between your skin and the cold source to avoid irritation or more damages
- Not to apply cold therapy for over 20 minutes such that your skin becomes too cold
- Remove the cold source when you notice your skin is becoming numb, bright red, blistered or blotchy.
Alternating heat and cold therapy for arthritis can offer the best arthritis pain management benefits, provided each type of therapy is used appropriately.
*All individuals are unique. Your results can and will vary.
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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Hot Vs Cold Therapy For Arthritis: Which Is Better
You can use heat or cold to manage arthritis pain. Each has its own pros and cons in different circumstances, so its best to use whichever pain treatment method provides the most effective relief for how you feel at the time:
- Cold therapy.Cryotherapy for arthritis works better for acute pain and swelling due to its numbing effect, while also bringing down inflammation
- Heat therapy. This arthritis care technique provides more relief if your muscles are tired or achy. For example, if youve been out walking and arthritis symptoms start to become evident without causing painful swelling, applying heat therapy may be better a better way to soothe your muscles.
Keeping both hot and cold therapy for arthritis in your arsenal is a good idea. By using heat or ice for arthritis symptoms as and when you need them, you can guide your body to a lifestyle thats more comfortable and less disruptive.
When To Be Careful With Heat Therapy
Cold therapy should be used with caution or possibly avoided in the following scenarios:
- Over an area with compromised circulation or sensation
- Over an acutely inflamed or swollen joint
- Over an open wound or infected area
- In the presence of a confirmed malignancy/cancer
- Medical conditions such as hemophilia
If one or more of these apply to you, or you are concerned about how to safely use heat therapy, check with your doctor or physiotherapist.
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Heat Vs Cold Therapy For Joint Pain
Applying heat or cold can offer an inexpensive and easy way to relieve arthritis-related aches and pains. However, there can be confusion about when to use heat versus cold therapy. Heat can relax muscles and improve joint lubrication. Heat therapy is typically used to relieve muscle and joint stiffness, help warm-up joints prior to activity, and/or relieve muscle spasm. Cold therapy can help reduce the inflammation, swelling, and pain related to joint arthritis. Cold application is also often recommended for acute bone and joint injuries.
Some patients may even get best results by alternating between heat and cold therapy. For example, heat may be utilized in the morning to âloosen-upâ stiff arthritic joints and cold application subsequently used later in the day to reduce swelling. This alternating process can be repeated throughout the day for pain relief.
Most often, cold therapy is recommended with certain types of painful arthritis inflammation flares, such as seen with gout and pseudogout. Other types of arthritis, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis, may benefit from both heat and cold therapy. No specific universal guidelines exist for when to use heat or cold therapy for joint pain, and a quick web search will yield varying recommendations. People with arthritis joint pain are advised to experiment with both heat and cold therapy to find which works best for their individual symptoms.
Hot And Cold Therapies Explained
Treating pain, inflammation and injury with hot and cold therapies can be extremely effective and affordable. However, its important to know which situations call for hot, which call for cold and which may benefit from both treatments. Importantly, this kind of therapy is very good for arthritis and can help ease pain and stiffness that comes with the condition.
What is cold therapy?Cold therapy reduces blood flow to the applied area, slows the rate of inflammation and reduces the risk of swelling and tissue damage. It can also temporarily numb sore tissues to help with pain.
Types of Cold Therapy
- Ice packs available to purchase, or use a plastic bag filled with ice or frozen vegetables and wrapping it in a dry cloth. As a general rule, ice packs are used for 20 minutes, removed for 1-2 hours, before being applied again.
- Ice baths body part is immersed in cold water
- Ice massage ice cube or ice pack is moved around the sore area or joint in a circular motion
- Vaporizing sprays very short term effect
Cold Therapy is Best for
- Acute stages of inflammation such as a recent sprain or injury
- Tendinitis or irritation on the tendons following activity
Heat therapy dilates the blood vessels, stimulate blood flow and reduces muscle spasms.
Types of heat therapy
Hot therapy is best for
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