Sunday, March 3, 2024

Which Is Better For Arthritis Pain Heat Or Cold

Bring The Heat With Chili Peppers

Heat therapy or cold therapy? Hot water bag or ice pack? What works in arthritis?

One way to combat cold-induced pain is with some spicy heat in the form of capsaicin, the active ingredient in chili peppers. Rub a capsaicin lotion or gel over painful joints to help ease the pain and reduce swelling, says Don R. Martin, MD, a rheumatologist with Sentara RMH Rheumatology in Harrisonburg, Virginia. You may feel a slight burning sensation but that should subside within a minute or two. A meta-analysis published in the journal Systematic Reviews found scientific evidence dating back decades showing that capsaicin has pain-relieving properties for both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Surprising Facts About Arthritis Pain

Even though pain may interfere with work relationships and daily life few Americans talk to their doctors about it. Did you know:

  • Fewer than half of Americans with severe or moderate pain report that they have a “great deal of control” over their pain.
  • Fewer than half of people who visit their doctor for pain believe that their doctor completely understands how their pain makes them feel.

Take Your Meds In Bed

Crawling out of a warm, cozy bed on a cold day is no fun. Add in arthritis pain and it can be pure torture. Keep your daily arthritis and pain medications within reach of your bed. I keep all my medications and a fresh bottle of water on my bedside table so all I have to do is reach over and take them, says Amy K., 42, who has ankylosing spondylitis. You can even try to sneak in an extra bit of sleep in the morning while you wait for them to kick in.

Here are more tips to soothe morning stiffness and pain with arthritis.

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When Not To Use Cold And Heat Therapy

While cold and heat therapy is a good treatment option for many, they are generally not recommended for people with:

  • Sensory disorders, because of an absence of skin sensitivity
  • Impaired circulation or ischemia
  • Diabetes because of possible nerve damage and lessened sensitivity
  • Open or infected wounds
  • Dermatitis or eczema
  • Heart disease or hypertension consult your doctor first

Cold therapy shouldnt be used for people with vasospasm or hypersensitivity to cold.

Heat therapy shouldnt be used for people with vascular disease, deep vein thrombosis, multiple sclerosis, or cancer if treating the region over the tumor site.

Heat therapy should also be avoided in the acute phase of an injury when swelling or bruising is present and the skin is hot to touch or in an area of recent bleeding. If you experience increased swelling, stop treatment immediately.

Heat Or Ice Which Is Best For An Older Dog

Ice Vs Heat For Treating Pain: Which One Is Best For ...

Knowing what is best for your older dog when it comes to treatment of their ailments and making them more comfortable can change as your dog gets older. If your dog is in pain or has an injury, the difference between using heat or ice can be the difference in the way they heal and the quality of their life.

Read Also: Arthritis Symptoms In Arms

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.

When To Seek Treatment For Your Arthritis

Arthritis doesnt have to spell the end of an active life. If you are experiencing worrisome symptoms or persistent pain, the renowned arthritis specialists at Summit Orthopedics can help. We work with you to confirm a diagnosis and develop an appropriate conservative treatment plan. If nonsurgical treatments fail to support your lifestyle goals, fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeons will consult with you and discuss appropriate surgical options. Summit is home to innovative joint replacement options. Our Vadnais Heights Surgery Center is one of only two surgery centers nationally to receive The Joint Commissions Advanced Certification for Total Hip and Total Knee Replacement.

Start your journey to healthier joints. Find your arthritis expert, request an appointment online, or call us at to schedule a consultation.

Summit has convenient locations across the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, serving Minnesota and western Wisconsin. We have state-of-the-art centers for comprehensive orthopedic care in Eagan, MN, Plymouth, MN, Vadnais Heights, MN, and Woodbury, MN, as well as additional community clinics throughout the metro and southern Minnesota.

Also Check: High Rheumatoid Factor Causes

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.

Cochrane Review: Thermotherapy Versus Cryotherapy

Should you use heat or ice for joint pain?

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.

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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.

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Suitable for Sensitive Skin

If You Answered With Stiffness In The Knee Joint

If stiffness in the knee joint was a persons main symptom, providing there isnt much swelling and their pain levels are generally low, I would opt for applying heat to the affected knee joint.

This would encourage better mobility for the knee joint and let you walk further and stand more easily.

To use this technique, follow this method:

  • Start sitting comfortably
  • Take a hot water bottle
  • Apply it immediately to your stiff knee
  • Keep it there for 15 minutes, then remove
  • Allow the skin to cool to a natural temperature, then repeat the process
  • Always look out for any signs of heat burn on your skin and remove immediately if you see or feel anything.

Also Check: Rash With Rheumatoid Arthritis

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?

What Is Better For Arthritis Heat Or Cold

Applying Heat vs. Cold for Pain Relief: Understanding When ...

sometimes, you may alternate application of both heat and cold therapies for better results. For instance, before, a patient may use heat therapy to warm up the muscles before physical therapy exercises then later apply cold therapy after the exercises. Another instance is where a patient may use heat therapy in the morning to loosen up an osteoarthritic knee then later use cold therapy to prevent or reduce swelling. These may be done throughout the day alternating heat and cold therapies depending on the situation.

The basic principle of using these two types of therapies, heat and cold, is to know when to apply each. For instance, you cannot apply heat therapy for arthritis when the joint is already hot, red and irritated. The same case, you cant apply cold therapy for arthritis to a stiff joint that is not moving well. Simply understand that heat helps to relax muscles and cold helps reduce inflammation and pain. Having known this, you can easily answer the question, what is better for arthritis, heat or cold?

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Sip A Mug Of Golden Milk

Nothing feels as good as a hot drink on a cold day and golden milk isnt just comforting the turmeric spice that gives the beverage its characteristic golden color has been shown to reduce arthritis pain, Dr. Martin says. Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory. You can take it as a supplement but on chilly days, make it into golden milk, a traditional hot Indian drink made from any type of milk, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, pepper, and a dash of maple syrup. Turmeric showed measurable improvements in arthritis symptoms in a meta-analysis published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition.

Make Yourself A Hot Pocket In Bed

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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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.

Swim Or Exercise In Warm Water

How to Relieve Arthritis pain [with heat and cold therapy]

Swimming and exercising in warm water allows you to build muscle strength, improve flexibility, and increase mobility while reducing compression to your joints. This may help to ease discomfort and alleviate stiffness.

If you live near a warm body of water, take a dip in a natural setting. Otherwise, find a heated pool in your area. Aim to spend at least 20 minutes in the water.

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When To Use Heat With An Older Dog:

Heat should be used for chronic conditions and should be avoided after acute injury, immediately post-surgery or flare-up of an injury or osteoarthritis. It should be used for 15 20 minutes over the affected area. Ensure the heat pack is not too hot to avoid burns. You need to ensure you check your dogs skin to ensure it is only just warm. Never force your older dog to have a heat pack if they dont like it. Heat can be used once to three times per day in colder weather.

Does Cold Therapy Help Arthritis Pain

Yes. Cold packs numb the sore area and reduce inflammation and swelling. Ice packs are especially good for joint pain caused by an arthritis flare. You might also try using a local spray such as fluoromethane on your back or painful area before and after exercise. This superficial cooling decreases muscle spasms and increases the threshold for pain. Or you can make instant cold packs from frozen bags of vegetables.

Some patients prefer cold therapy to moist heat for arthritis pain, while others tell of having the best relief when they alternate the sessions with moist heat and ice. You can experiment with moist heat and ice therapy and then select the method that gives the best relief with the least trouble or expense.

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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 body’s 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.

Heat Vs Cold Therapy For Joint Pain

Pin on Fitness

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.

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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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