Is there anything you can do about the pain and stiffness of arthritis? Perhaps you've heard that heat or cold therapy can help relieve pain and are wondering if it's worth giving them a try. Well, it is.
Many arthritis doctors recommend both heat and cold treatments to help reduce inflammation and ease the pain and stiffness that comes with arthritis. It may take a little "trial and error" to learn which therapy works best for your pain. But by staying with it, you may find the right combination of hot packs and ice packs to get the most relief from pain and make it easier to manage arthritis. If pain persists, be sure to talk with your doctor.
A diagnosis of arthritis is the first step toward successful treatment. To diagnose arthritis, your doctor will consider your symptoms, perform a physical exam to check for swollen joints or loss of motion, and use blood tests and X-rays to confirm the diagnosis. X-rays and blood tests also help distinguish the type of arthritis you have. For example, most people with rheumatoid arthritis have antibodies called rheumatoid factors (RF) in their blood, although RF may also be present in other disorders...
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.
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
heated swimming pool
hot packs (some can be warmed in a microwave)
moist heating pad
therapeutic mixture of paraffin and mineral oil
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.