The simple, convenient and inexpensive way of treating arthritis is by applying hot and cold therapy to the affected area. However, many times people are confused about when to consider heat therapy and when to apply cold therapy.
Hot therapy helps in relaxing muscles and lubricating joints. So, it is often used to relieve joint stiffness, relieve muscles or ease spasm in muscles. On the other hand, cold therapy helps relieve inflammation, pain and swelling associated with arthritis. It is suggested to use this treatment for acute injuries.
Hot Cold Therapy works by stimulating the body’s healing process. For example, the blood vessels dilate with heat therapy. It even decreases muscle spasm and stimulates blood circulation.
You may use moist heat like heated cloths or warm baths or dry heat, such as heat lamps or heating pads, to relieve arthritis pain.
On the other hand, cold compress helps in reducing inflammation by constricting the blood vessels. Although you may feel a bit uncomfortable using cold packs, these are helpful in numbing deep pain.
When you use dry or moist heat therapy, you need to ensure that the temperature is not too hot to burn your skin. You need to find a tolerable temperature for yourself when using the heated pad, hot water bottle, hot bath or spa therapy. You can apply heat for around 15 minutes before beginning exercise.
You can pick any of the following types of hot therapy for relieving arthritis pain:
You can sit on a stool with rubber tips to safely use hot therapy on the affected area. The continuous heat flow on the arthritic joint site can help keep pain minimal while allowing easier movement.
Most people also get relief from stiffness and pain with hot spas or baths. The moist heat therapy improves muscle relaxation while boosting blood supply to the pain site. It also relieves spasms and rigidity in your muscles. However, you need to avoid spas and hot tubs if you have heart disease, high blood pressure or if you’re pregnant.
Yes, of course. Cold therapy using cold packs helps numb the swollen or sore area. It also helps reduce swelling and inflammation. You can use ice packs to alleviate joint pain due to an arthritis flare. Even using a local spray like fluoromethane is recommended for painful areas or back pain before/after exercise. A spray provides superficial cooling for decreasing muscle spasm while elevating the pain threshold. You can even use instant cold packs made from a frozen pack of vegetables.
Some patients find cold therapy more helpful than moist heat therapy, whereas others prefer alternate sessions of Hot Cold Therapy. You can experiment with hot and cold therapy and pick the method that provides you relief with minimal trouble.
You can use hot and cold therapy twice a day for quick relief from stiffness and pain. On the other hand, use ice pack massages for 5 to 10 minutes on the painful area. The cold therapy must be used within 48 hours of your pain onset to get relief. And, the heat therapy must not be used for pain that remains longer than 48 hours.
Using hot and cold therapy is known to be quite helpful in relieving arthritis pain. But before using hot-cold therapy, your skin must be dry and there should not be any soreness and cuts on the affected area. If there’s visible skin damage, avoid using cold or heat therapy. If you cannot figure out what to do, consult a doctor to be on the safer side.