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How can heat or ice treatment help relieve pain?

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Heat boosts the flow of blood and nutrients to an area of the body. It often works best for morning stiffness or to warm up muscles before activity. Cold slows blood flow, reducing swelling and pain. It’s often best for short-term pain, like that from a sprain or a strain.

You can use either heat or cold to sooth aches and pains from osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, back pain, and fibromyalgia. The treatment also can help:

  • Muscle aches, spasms, and pains
  • Lower and upper back pain
  • Stiff, swollen, or tender joints
  • Neck stiffness
  • Finger, hand, or wrist pain
  • Knee pain

SOURCES:

Arthritis Today: "5 Steps to Pain Relief," “Using Heat and Cold for Pain Relief.”

Johns Hopkins Rheumatology: "Rehabilitation Management of RA."

Beck, M. , 5th ed. Milady, 2010. Theory & Practice of Therapeutic Massage

Arthritis Foundation: "Pain Center: Use Heat and Cold."

Cleveland Clinic: "Occupational and Physical Therapy for Arthritis."

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases: "Handout on Health: Back Pain."

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: "Low Back Pain Fact Sheet."

Reviewed by Minesh Khatri on May 30, 2019

SOURCES:

Arthritis Today: "5 Steps to Pain Relief," “Using Heat and Cold for Pain Relief.”

Johns Hopkins Rheumatology: "Rehabilitation Management of RA."

Beck, M. , 5th ed. Milady, 2010. Theory & Practice of Therapeutic Massage

Arthritis Foundation: "Pain Center: Use Heat and Cold."

Cleveland Clinic: "Occupational and Physical Therapy for Arthritis."

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases: "Handout on Health: Back Pain."

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: "Low Back Pain Fact Sheet."

Reviewed by Minesh Khatri on May 30, 2019

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What items can be used in heat or ice treatment?

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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

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