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Heat Or Ice For Arthritic Knee Pain

Data Collection And Analysis

Ice or Heat for Knee Arthritis?

The above search strategy identified a set of potentially relevant articles which were subsequently retrieved for review. These trials were assessed by two independent reviewers . Studies were selected to include in the review according to the inclusion criteria.

From each included trial, we collected information regarding the trial design, patient characteristics, dosages and treatment periods, baseline and end of study outcomes. Data concerning details of the studied population, intervention and outcomes were extracted using predetermined extraction forms by two independent reviewers . Differences in data extraction were resolved by referring back to the original article and establishing consensus. A third reviewer was consulted to help resolve differences. When necessary, information was sought from the authors of the primary studies.

This review was originally conducted to develop clinical practice guidelines for OA. They were adopted by a Panel of Experts: The Ottawa Panel on March 2003

Statistic analysis Outcomes were continuous in nature . Where pooling of data from different trials was possible, these outcomes were analyzed by a weighted mean difference using a fixed effects model. For dichotomous data, relative risks were used. The effect measured in an individual trial is weighted by the amount of variability about the mean in that study for that outcome. Graphical data were used in cases where table data were not available.

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.

Read Also: Can Arthritis Cause Burning Sensation

Tips To Combine Heat And Cold Therapy In Your Daily Routine

Here are a few tips to help you incorporate the use of heat and/or cold therapy in your everyday activities:

  • Keep a heat patch near your beduse it first thing in the morning to warm up your muscles if you wake up with an achy or stiff back
  • Apply a cold patch before bed if you have exercised or exerted your back
  • Use heat therapy before sleeping and after waking up if you have chronic back pain
  • Carry a couple of self-activating heat patches and ice packs in your bag or car to use while driving or at work

You are more likely to benefit from heat and cold therapy when you make these treatments a part of your daily routine.

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Thermotherapy For Treating Osteoarthritis Of The Knee

To answer this topic, scientists found and analyzed three studies. Over 170 people with osteoarthritis continue to take their medications but used hot, cold or ice packs/towels with or without massage or no treatment. The studies were not of high quality but this Cochrane review provides the best evidence we have today.

What is thermotherapy and how might it help osteoarthritis of the knee? Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis that can affect the hands, hips, shoulders and knees. In OA, the cartilage that protects the ends of the bones breaks down and causes pain and swelling. Thermotherapy involves applying heat or cold to joints to improve the symptoms of osteoarthritis and can be done with packs, towels, wax, etc. Heat may work by improving circulation and relaxing muscles, while cold may numb the pain, decrease swelling, constrict blood vessels and block nerve impulses to the joint. Thermotherapy can be used in rehabilitation programmes or at home. How well does thermotherapy work? One study showed that massaging with ice for 20 minutes, 5 days a week for 2 weeks, improved muscle strength in the leg, the range of motion in the knee and decreased time to walk 50 feet compared to no treatment.

Another study showed that ice packs for 3 days a week for three weeks improved pain just as well as no treatment.

How safe is it? No side effects were reported in the studies, but in general, studies report that thermotherapy is safe when applied carefully.

What Does Warmth And Warming Better Help With

Ice or heat on arthritic knee: Applying Heat vs. Cold to an Arthritic ...

Arthritis. Any chronic pain in joints and muscles, because heat increases blood flow.

Headache. Only if it is accompanied by spasms in the neck area the heat relaxes the muscles.

Sprains of muscles and ligaments. It helps well against numbness, however, heat compresses and heating pads can be used only after the body and medications have coped with the inflammation, otherwise you can make things worse.

Tendinosis a chronic feeling of numbness in the tendons near the ligaments. Heat fights well with it.

fever is good in all cases when the pain or injuries are chronic and they are at least a month and a half. The heat increases the blood flow, which relaxes the muscles and ligaments.

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Types Of Heat Therapy For Arthritis

There are several types of heat therapy, called thermotherapy, options for arthritis. Heat therapy improves circulation and causes your blood vessels to expand. This helps your body to deliver more blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the affected area, which may reduce inflammation, stiffness, and pain. Heat therapy may also improve mobility, which makes it easier to relax, loosen up, and move.

If a heat therapy session causes swelling, redness, or inflammation avoid further treatments until your symptoms subside. Avoid using heat therapy during a flare-up or the acute stage of an injury. Talk with a healthcare professional before using heat treatments if you have heart disease or high blood pressure.

Do not use heat therapy if you have any of the following conditions:

  • multiple sclerosis

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 Cold Therapy:

  • If you have had a recent injury where swelling is a problem.
  • Apply an ice pack, frozen gel pack or even a bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel to the affected area. You should never apply a frozen item directly to the skin, as it can cause damage to the skin and tissues.
  • Apply cold treatment as soon as possible after an injury.
  • Use cold therapy for short periods of time, several times a day. Ten to 15 minutes is fine, and no more than 20 minutes of cold therapy should be used at a time to prevent nerve, tissue, and skin damage.
  • Elevate the affected area for best results.

Q: Which Will Work Better For My Painful Arthritic Joints Heat Or Cold

Ice vs. Heat for Knee Pain | Knee Exercises

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.

Read Also: Which Knee Brace Is Right For Me

What Is Osteoarthritis

A common cause of joint pain, such as knee pain or hip pain, is osteoarthritis . OA is a degenerative disease, also described as wear and tear, which leads to loss of cartilage.

OA is a chronic joint condition and as it progresses cartilage protecting the ends of the bones gradually breaks down, joint fluid loses its shock-absorbing qualities and bones may begin to rub against each other. This can cause pain, swelling and problems moving the joint.

Sometimes knee or hip pain caused by bursitis is confused with OA. There are some differentiators to be on the lookout for. Bursitis pain increases when pressure is put on the joint and can start sharply to gradually change to a dull ache. Osteoarthritis pain comes on gradually and gets worse over time. However, people with OA may also get a bursitis.

Calcium And Vitamin D

Low-fat milk, cheese, and yogurt can also provide vitamin D and calcium, which may help to strengthen the bones.

Scientists have found evidence of low vitamin D levels in people with OA.

Consuming more vitamin D through fortified dairy foods and regular, safe, exposure to sunlight may offer benefits for people with OA.

Also Check: Why Is My Knee Aching

Should I Use Heat Or Cold For My Arthritis Pain

Its a common question when trying to find relief for your symptoms- should I use heat or cold for my arthritis pain? The answer to this question simply is there are therapeutic benefits to using both hot and cold treatments to help address your pain symptoms, especially the pain associated with arthritis. Both heat and cold treatments can stimulate the body to heal itself. The trick is knowing when to reach for the heating pad or the ice pack or both and how long to use each treatment to alleviate the pain being experienced.

Heat is an effective treatment for loosening stiff joints and soothing tired muscles. It loosens the body up prior to exercise and can help with relaxation and reducing muscle spasms. It also increases blood flow to an area and promotes healing. Heat however is not recommended on swollen, red or irritated joints, that is where a cold pack will be helpful. Cold treatments are effective for acute pain when constricting blood flow aids in decreasing inflammation and swelling.

Cold treatments include applying a frozen gel pack or a frozen bag of vegetables to the affected area, helping to reduce inflammation, leading to joint pain. Switching between hot and cold therapy can offer excellent arthritis pain management benefits, as long as each one is used appropriately.

Heat Or Ice For Arthritis In Thumb

Vive Knee Ice Pack Wrap

You can help reduce swelling and pain by icing the joint for five to fifteen minutes several times per day. Apply heat to the surfaces. Some people may find that heat is more effective than cold when it comes to relieving pain.

Arthritis is a condition that causes joint pain, inflammation, and stiffness. There is no cure for this condition, but natural treatments such as heat and cold therapy can help slow its progression and alleviate its symptoms. Cold therapy, also known as cryotherapy, reduces swelling and inflammation in the affected area by lowering blood flow. Heat therapy is available for arthritis through a number of different methods. Heat therapy improves blood flow and blood vessel contraction in the body. It also helps to boost the amount of blood, oxygen, and nutrients delivered to the area. Arthritis is thought to be alleviated by lowering inflammation, stiffness, and pain.

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Using Both Heat And Ice

In some situations, applying both ice and heat to your joint may be helpful. Called contrast therapy, this treatment involves alternating between icing and heating a joint. While this option has traditionally been utilized after exercise or participating in a sporting event to aid in recovery, it may be helpful for more chronic conditions as well. This style of treatment can be performed using hot and cold packs or by alternately submerging the knee in hot and cold water.

While individuals who received contrast therapy subjectively reported less overall soreness and muscular fatigue, the research is still mixed. The current evidence is lacking on whether this treatment is helpful in managing the pain associated with a knee injury or in reducing your inflammation levels.

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Search Methods For Identification Of Studies

Published clinical trials of thermotherapy and/or cryotherapy for knee OA, in French or English, were identified through a search of MEDLINE , EMBASE , CINAHL, HEALTHSTAR, Physiotherapy Evidence Database , the Cochrane Musculoskeletal Specialized Register, and the Cochrane Controlled Trial Register Issue 1, 2000, using the sensitive search strategy of the Cochrane Musculoskeletal group modified from work by Dickersin 1994 and Haynes 1994.

Reference lists were handsearched for further identification of published work, presentation at scientific meetings and personal communications. Content experts were contacted for additional studies and unpublished data .

The search strategy for MEDLINE database used is in Appendix 1 .

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Best Thermotherapy According To Your Knee Arthritis

Lets clarify something first there are over 100 types of arthritis!

See, the word arthritis only means inflammation of the joint. Its a medical term to say the joint is swollen, but it doesnt tell us why.

Now, these are the most common types of arthritis :

  • Osteoarthritis. Due to wear and tear. Ironically, its NOT inflammatory.
  • Gout. Here, uric acid crystals accumulate in the joints, causing inflammation.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis. An autoimmune disease that affects the joints.

And, the truth is that anyone with these chronic diseases can benefit from cold and hot therapies.

But, research shows one thermotherapy may provide more benefits than the other, depending on the condition:

Instructions To Do Heat Therapy At Home

Is Ice or Heat Better After Knee Replacement Surgery?

If youre going to use a heating pad, moist heat pads, or hot water bottles:

  • Make sure you dont burn your skin. The heat should feel nice, otherwise, it wont promote relaxation.
  • Do it for 15-30 minutes, up to 3 times per day.

Another option is taking a hot shower or a warm bath. I recommend doing this at the end of the day, as it can help you sleep better.

Recommended Reading: What To Expect After Knee Surgery

How Are Stages Of Oa Classified

OA stages can be classified from x-ray evaluation in the Kellgren Lawrence grades KL 0 – KL 4:

  • KL 0: No radiographic features of osteoarthritis
  • KL 1: Possible joint space narrowing and osteophyte formation
  • KL 2: Definite osteophyte formation with possible joint space narrowing
  • KL 3: Multiple osteophytes, definite joint space narrowing, sclerosis and possible bony deformity
  • KL 4: Large osteophytes, marked joint space narrowing, severe sclerosis and definite bony deformity

A more common description of the stages of osteoarthritis are mild, moderate and severe OA .

1. Mild OsteoarthritisAt this stage, the surface of the joint cartilage is beginning to breakdown and x-rays or MRIs of joints may show small bone spurs, cracks or indentations forming. Users with mild OA may experience pain or discomfort after a long day of walking. Wearing an ultra-lightweight brace could help prevent further breakdown while easing mild joint pain.

2. Moderate OsteoarthritisAt this stage, the joint cartilage has broken down to the point that the bones are more frequently rubbing together. People with moderate OA may experience pain while walking, running, bending or using the stairs. Joint stiffness is commonly experienced after long periods of sitting or lying down. Inflammation of the joints is also reported following more strenuous activities.

Wearing a brace, such as Unloader One, could help delay the need for total joint replacement surgery.

Arthritis Pain What To Use Hot Fomentation Or Ice Packs

Hot fomentation and ice packs are both convenient methods for relieving pain. They are cheap, readily available, and have no side effects. Also, you can place these packs along the painful region to get local benefits.

So which should you use a hot fomentation or an ice pack? And when to use them?

During the early stages of healing, known as the inflammatory phase, there will be redness, warmth, swelling, and pain. You need to protect your joints and the injured area from further damage. Cold therapy can help you do so. It can cause the blood vessels to constrict and narrow, lowering the flow of inflammatory infiltrates to that region.

The inflammatory phase lasts for a few days. Avoid the use of heat during this phase. Heat raises the blood flow into the injured area and increases swelling.

Hot fomentation increases the temperature of the skin and soft tissue. It permits the blood vessels to expand, allowing more blood flow to the region. Heat also increases the metabolic rate and uptake of oxygen and accelerates tissue healing. It can help relieve muscle spasms and improves flexibility. Hot packs are preferable during the later stages of healing when the tissues are mending.

Chronic osteoarthritis respond better to heat. However, for an acute episode with inflammation, Ice packs can be a wise choice. Ultimately, try the one that suits you the best.

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