Q: Which Will Work Better For My Painful Arthritic Joints Heat Or Cold
A: Applying heat or cold to a painful area is a simple, inexpensive method for relieving pain. Cold reduces swelling and numbs the area. Heat loosens up muscles, increases flexibility and increases circulation. For an acute injury, such as a pulled muscle or injured tendon, the usual recommendation is to start by applying ice to reduce inflammation and dull pain. Once inflammation has gone down, heat can be used to ease stiffness.
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For a chronic pain condition, such as osteoarthritis, heat seems to work best. However, some people find that cold also helps to dull the pain.
So whats the answer? Try them both and use whichever works best for you.
Exercise is an important part of treatment for osteoarthritis. Heat and cold can also be used to make exercising a little easier. Try using heat before exercise to loosen up muscles and cold afterward to minimize any achiness.
For heat, soak in a warm bath, hot tub or whirlpool for about 20 minutes. Or take a warm shower. Dress warmly afterward to prolong the benefit. A heating pad is another good way to warm up an area. You can also buy moist heat pads. Or, heat a damp washcloth in the microwave for about 20 seconds. Test it to make sure its not too hot. Wrap it in a dry towel and apply it to the painful area.
The Art Of Using Hot And Cold Therapy
Hot and cold therapy each have their own appropriate uses. You should never apply heat to a joint that is already hot, red, and irritated, for example, nor should you apply cold to a joint that’s stiff and not moving well. Remember, heat helps muscles relax cold helps to minimize inflammation and pain.
It’s also important to be careful when using hot and cold therapy to manage arthritis pain, or you might end up with damage to your skin from exposure to relatively extreme temperatures.
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Here are suggestions for safely using heat therapy devices such as a heating pad, a heat pack, a hand towel soaked in hot water, a warm water soak, or a hot water bottle:
- Make sure that the temperature is never uncomfortably high you don’t want to put your skin at risk for burns.
- Place a cloth or towel between your skin and the heat source to prevent burns.
- Don’t apply heat to skin that is cut or injured in any way.
- Never apply heat for longer than 20 minutes at a time.
Suggestions for safely using cold therapy devices such as a cold pack, a bag of frozen vegetables, or a bag of ice:
After using heat or cold on your joint pain, always evaluate your skin and look for any signs of damage like a change in color, rash, or blisters.
Switching between hot and cold therapy can offer excellent arthritis pain management benefits, as long as each one is used appropriately.
Ice Or Heat: Which Is Best For A Swollen Knee
Knee pain is one of the most common and debilitating joint issues, affecting millions of people on a daily basis. Whether the pain is caused by an acute injury like a tear or overuse, or its the result of too much weight or regular wear and tear, there are a number of structures in the knee joint itself that can be the source of the pain. Weve all heard of icing for pain, but sometimes, heat is a much better source of relief. When it comes to painful, swollen knee treatments, which is best, ice or heat?
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What Conditions Can Exercise Help
Knee exercises and stretches can help relieve knee pain caused by many conditions, including these three that commonly affect older women:
Patellofemoral pain. This condition typically causes a dull, aching pain in the front of the knee thats made worse by daily activities, such as squatting, going up or down stairs, or standing up after sitting for a long period of time. The pain is caused by irritation of the cartilage underneath the kneecap when it does not glide or sit properly. Exercise can help to eliminate problems that lead to this irritation. Stretches can loosen tight muscles on the side of the knee that may be pulling the kneecap out of its groove as it moves. Strengthening weak hip muscles or stretching tight muscles in the front or back of the legs can also reduce discomfort.
Chronic degenerative meniscal tears. When one or both pads of cartilage that cushion each of your knee joints deteriorates or tears, you may feel pain and a sticking or locking sensation. While surgery is sometimes necessary, doctors usually first recommend physical therapy to help build up the muscles around the knee to take the pressure off the joint and reduce discomfort.
A Protein For Every Stimuli
Before the ink was dry on their original report, Dr. Julius and his team were already looking for a protein that transduces the feeling of a cool spring day a cold receptor, a protein that lets the ions flow at a much lower temperature. Meanwhile, Ardem Patapoutian was doing the same thing! Both labs then independently and simultaneously discovered TRPM8, an ion gate opened by temperatures of 20C, give or take a few, instead of TRPV1s 40C.
And there are still other proteins that open like flowers in different temperatures, each one covering a section of the thermometer. And the discoveries of TRPV1 and TRP8 triggered a research rush to identify other kinds of receptors. The basic mechanisms of touch were still unknown at the time, and especially tantalizing.
How does squishing tissue turn into the perception of pressure?
Papoutians team pursued this, earning the other half of the Nobel. Charmingly, they started out by identifying natural cells that were sensitive to touch , microscopically. I am not joking: they literally poked cells with a microscopic stick until they found ones that responded with a little spark of electricity.
They finally found that spark, and then they just had to identify the spark plug: the protein that was reacting to the poke. They found two: Piezo1 and Piezo2 were announced in 2010.22 And that is why Patapoutian is sharing a prize with Julius.
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.
Applying Heat Vs Cold To An Arthritic Joint
Using heat and/or cold therapies on an arthritic joint is a simple, inexpensive alternative treatment that can help to alleviate pain, stiffness and swelling. Read:Alternative Treatments
Heat can relax muscles and help lubricate joints. Heat therapy may be used to relieve muscle and joint stiffness, help warm up joints before activity, or ease a muscle spasm.
Learn more: When and Why to Apply Cold to an Arthritic Joint
Alternating heat and cold. Some people alternate between heat and cold therapy. For example:
- A patient may be encouraged to use heat therapy to warm up a joint before physical therapy exercise and to use cold therapy after exercise.
- A person can use heat therapy in the morning to loosen up an osteoarthritic knee and use cold therapy to reduce swelling a few hours later. This process can be repeated throughout the day.
Cold therapy is recommended for certain types of arthritis that cause painful inflammation flares, such as gout and pseudogout. People with other types of arthritisincluding but not limited to osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitismay benefit from both heat and cold therapy.
There are no universally accepted guidelines for when to use heat or cold therapy on osteoarthritic joints, and recommendations are mixed.1–6 People with osteoarthritis are advised to experiment with both heat and cold therapy to find what works best for them.7
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When To Use Heat Therapy
If your dog has suffered an injury, heat therapy should only be applied after the initial swelling and inflammation stage . For the first 72 hours, cold therapy is most effective. To perform cold therapy, place a cold gel pack, ice, or bag of frozen peas wrapped in a towel to the affected area for ten minutes.
If your dog has arthritis or another chronic, ongoing condition, heat therapy can be used anytime to reduce pain. Its also especially effective to improve joint range of motion during and after exercise.
Being Active And Managing Stress
If youre not tired at the end of the day, it can be harder to get to sleep. If possible, make sure your routine includes:
- Regular exercise.Water-based exercises are good options as they take the weight off your knees. Tai chi and yoga can help with strength and flexibility. Exercise can also help reduce stress.
- Social activities. If youre no longer working, attending a day center, joining a club, or spending time with friends, family, or neighbors can help you get out and about.
If youre concerned that your stress and anxiety levels are too high or never seem to go away, speak to your doctor. They may be able to help with counseling or medication.
A suitable environment and regular sleeping habits can help improve sleep quality.
- making sure the temperature is not too hot and not too cold
- changing to a more suitable mattress, if necessary
- using blackout blinds to keep out the light
- leaving phones and other devices outside the room
- shutting the door if other people are still up and about
- using earplugs to cut out any noise
- if possible, using the bedroom only for sleeping, not for working or watching television
- having a regular time to wake up and go to bed
- avoiding eating a large meal near bedtime
- avoiding drinking too much fluid close to bedtime or you may wake up needing the bathroom
If you feel anxious about falling when you get up in the night to go to the bathroom, add nightlights in key locations to help you see your way.
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Heat Wraps Are Worth A Shot
Dennis C. Turk, PhD, an anesthesiologist at the University of Washington in Seattle, tells WebMD that as a scientist, he wants to see more thorough studies of the heat wraps to determine their effectiveness.
But “as a clinician, is noninvasive and other than the cost, there are no known side effects, so what do you have to lose if you try it out?” he asks. ThermaCare’s heat wraps cost about $6.99 for a box of two knee pads.
Turk says that he occasionally recommends wrapping a bag of frozen peas in a towel and placing it on a painful body part for 10 minutes. “If it doesn’t help, nothing is lost,” he says. “It’s the same thing for any of these heat wraps, but they are not a replacement for and you should discuss it with your physician.”
Cold Therapy For Joint Pain
When arthritis pain causes a sensation of burning, cool it off with cold applying an ice pack or even a bag of frozen vegetables can help to numb areas affected by joint pain. Cold therapy can reduce inflammation, a major cause of arthritis joint pain and stiffness. Placing a cold pack on a swollen joint can also help bring it back down to size, which will also lessen joint pain.
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How To Perform Heat Therapy On Your Dog
The main guideline for performing heat therapy on your dog is to aim for warm as the ideal temperature, not hot. Before placing the source of heat on your dog, always test it on yourself first by holding it to the inside of your wrist for 20 seconds . If your dog displays any signs of discomfort such as excessive movement, growling, or biting, stop the treatment immediately.
To perform heat therapy:
If You Answered With Pain In The Knee Joint
You might want to opt for ice. If your main problem is knee joint pain, I would apply the ice directly to the most painful area of the joint.
Youll want to use a few layers between the ice and your skin. My preferred method would be:
- Take a bag of frozen peas from the freezer
- Wrap a thin towel around them
- Dampen the towel slightly, then apply to the painful area for 15 minutes
- Remove the peas/towel and let the area heat back up to its natural skin temperature
- You can then apply the peas/towel again. There is no limit to how many times you can do this.
- Always look out for any signs of ice burn on your skin and remove immediately if you see or feel anything.
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How And When To Use Ice
Actual ice, ice packs and other cold therapies can help reduce knee pain and . Conventional medical wisdom suggests using ice to treat an acute injury or pain that occurs after activity. Put another way: Apply heat before your activity and cold after you return home. Cold can numb pain, decrease swelling, and block nerve impulses to the joint.
A review article summarizing six studies suggests cold therapy can be an effective way to relieve . One study showed that ice massage performed for 20 minutes, 5 days per week, for 2 weeks improved range of motion, function and knee strength among individuals with knee osteoarthritis.
To prepare to perform an ice massage, fill a Styrofoam cup with water and freeze it. When removed, that rounded block of ice fits your hand perfectly for performing knee massage.
Another study found that ice packs used for 3 days per week for 3 weeks improved pain just as well as no treatment. Importantly, there were no side effects seen with cold therapy in any of these studies.
To explore the benefits of cold therapy for knee osteoarthritis:
- Apply a bag of ice wrapped in a towel or a gel-filled cold pack to the painful area for about 10 minutes.
- Wrap a towel around a bag of frozen vegetables and place it on sore joints for pain relief. Tip: Frozen peas or other vegetables mold to your body, making them ideally suited for treating knee pain.
What Is Heat Therapy
Heat therapy is the application of heat to an injury, for example using a hot water bottle or heat pack . It increases the temperature of the tissue around the injury, which increases blood flow and circulation as well as the elasticity of the tissue.
One theory for why this works is that the increased blood flow to the damaged tissue can promote healing. Its also thought that heat could provide pain relief and reduce muscle spasm as well as stiffness, by warming up muscles and making them more flexible.
Heat therapy is thought to be effective for long-term injuries or ones that are not swollen.
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