Should You Use Heat Or A Cold Compress On A Knee Injury
Applying heat and ice to an injury are commonly-used methods to treat pain and reduce swelling. The scientific evidence behind their effectiveness is limited — but some people find it helps.
There is a lot of debate around which method works best as each one has a different approach to treating an injury.
If youve hurt your knee, or your knee joint is painful, it may help to understand what these treatments are and how theyre used, to help you choose which option may work best for you.
A specific trauma to your knee will be treated differently to a long-term knee condition .
How And When To Use Heat
Heating pads, warm baths, and other heat-based treatments tend to be best before activity. Applying heat to your knee before you hop on the treadmill or head out on a shopping excursion will improve blood flow, relax your muscles, and prime your joints for action.
Wrap a moist heating pad in a towel and place it over your knee or knees for 15 – 20 minutes before exercise. For a do-it-yourself heating pad, place a wet washcloth in a freezer bag and heat it in the microwave for 1 minute. Electric heating pads are another option for treating knee pain, provided they are not too hot.
Other ways to tap into the healing effects of heat include:
- Warming your clothes in the dryer before getting dressed.
- Turning your electric blanket up for a few minutes before getting out of bed.
There is one caveat to keep in mind when using heat therapy: Do not burn yourself. Avoid this by using heating pads for less than 20 minutes at a time and filling heating bottles with hotnot boilingwater.
How Ice Can Help Relieve Pain
We all know that ice is great at numbing pain. Stubbed your toe? Grab an ice pack. Crushed your finger? Grab an ice pack. Banged your head. You guessed it: Ice pack!
But, according to Dr. Brooks, ice is more than just an analgesic. In fact, ice is particularly helpful if your muscle or joint pain is associated with the swelling that typically accompanies an exercise-related overuse injury or arthritis.
“Applying ice causes your blood vessels to narrow, decreasing blood flow to the area. In turn, this helps reduce the inflammation that causes swelling,” says Dr. Brooks. “Even if you can’t actually see the swelling, one of its symptoms is pain. This means that if you can reduce your swelling, you can reduce your pain.”
The most common way to use ice to help relieve muscle or joint pain is to apply an ice pack to the area for about 20 to 30 minutes. It’s important to stick to this time frame, since over-icing can lead to skin damage.
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Briefly What Is Neuropathy
Neuropathy is a condition where there is some kind of damage to your peripheral nervous system. This involves an intricate network of nerves that leads from your brain, through your central nervous system in your spinal cord, and throughout all parts of your body.
When the nerve fibers in your body, arms and legs are stimulated, the nerves send a signal back to your brain. If there is damage to any of the nervous in your body, these nerves will misfire and send unpleasant signals to your brain. People with neuropathy report abnormal sensations like burning, tingling, numbness, and even paralysis. In order to alleviate these sensations, people try all kinds of treatments, including heat.
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How To Treat Joint Pain
Whether to use a hot or cold treatment to provide relief depends on the source of the pain.
Heat increases blood flow to an affected area, which promotes healing and relaxes muscle spasms. Cold restricts blood flow, reducing swelling and inflammation. It also numbs pain around the affected area.
Generally speaking, ice is better for inflammatory pain. You can tell if a joint is inflamed if its red, swollen, or warm to the touch. Relieve inflamed joints by applying a gel ice pack, cold pack, or even a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a T-shirt to the injured area.
For joint pain not caused by inflammation such as osteoarthritis opt for heat. The Arthritis Foundation recommends placing a moist heating pad wrapped in a layer of cloth on the affected joint or soaking it in a warm bath. Heat treatments also can be effective for rheumatoid arthritis when youre not having a flare-up.
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When Should You Use A Heat Treatment For Bursitis
Heat / warming temperature treatments work best to increase blood flow circulation and reduce risk of a cyclic injury process. Warmer temperatures should be used approximately 3 to 5 days after you first have the injury once initial swelling has calmed down. For post-surgical recovery, heat should not be started for a least 2 weeks after surgery because inflammation levels will be very high as the healing process starts over again. Any use of heat should also be combined with gradual movement to stretch out your shoulder with the intent of increasing range of motion .
If you have a chronic bursitis injury that wont seem to go away, you should use heat before activity to loosen up soft tissue in the joint . This treatment is shown to increase the elasticity of the soft tissue in and around the treatment area further to this, heat will also lengthen soft tissue. The benefits of increased length and flexibility of soft tissue mean it will be more pliable for activity and less likely to re-injure .
We believe the use of TShellz Wraps® for boosting blood flow in the area of application is one of the most under-utilized home treatment options available on the market today. We have client after client that have tried many options out there and have been amazed at how effective and fast the TShellz Wrap treatment can relieve pain and increase localized blood flow in the treatment area.
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Know When It’s Time To See A Doctor About Your Joint Pain
While ice and heat can help manage the muscle soreness that comes with exercise and other minor issues, pain can also be a sign that it’s time to see a doctor.
Here are five signs that joint pain warrants evaluation:
- The pain is very unpleasant and begins after a specific movement or while exercising.
- Swelling or bruising is accompanying the pain.
- Your range of motion is significantly limited or you’re unable to complete daily functional activities.
- The pain lingers beyond three days.
- The pain keeps coming back.
If you notice these signs, consult a sports medicine doctor.
- Learn more about our sports medicine services, with specialists who have the expertise to evaluate your pain and keep you moving.
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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
- 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.
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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:
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Increased Chance Of Injury
As well as causing problems for arthritis sufferers, colder weather also increases the risk of knee injury. This is because a fall in temperature causes muscles, tendons and ligaments to become less elastic and more prone to tears, sprains or ruptures.
Possible injuries include patellar tendonitis, caused by damage to the tissues between the kneecap and the tibia, and runners knee which is an umbrella term for a range of knee conditions linked to running .
How Heat Helps In Treating Pain
Health Shots spoke to Dr Akhilesh Yadav, Associate Director-Orthopaedics and Joint replacement at Max Hospital, who explained to us how heat helps in treating body pain. He says, Applying heat to a region that is inflamed will widen the blood vessels, encourage blood flow, and help in the relaxation of tense and aching muscles.
He further says that in most cases, that is depending on the type of problem, heat therapy is superior to cold therapy. For example, for the treatment of arthritic painful joints and persistent muscular pain, warm compresses are better than ice packs. Unless otherwise specified, heat should typically be applied to the painful region for 20 minutes, up to three times each day. Heat or hot water shouldnt be applied on any fresh injury or open wounds.
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Tips To Help With Knee Pain Relief
Originally Posted On:
Knee pain is one of the most common complaints from Americans of all ages. You could develop knee pain due to arthritis, an injury, or another condition. Without treatment, chronic knee pain could impact your quality of life.
Here are six tips that can help you find knee pain relief. With a knee pain management plan, you could keep it from impacting your mobility.
Learning how to manage your pain could help you avoid surgery, too.
Put a plan into action with these tips today.
Criteria For Considering Studies For This Review
Types of studies
According to an a priori protocol, eligible studies included randomized controlled trials and controlled clinical trials .
Types of participants
Only trials with participants aged 18 years or more with clinical and/or radiological confirmation of OA of the knee were included. Diagnosis of knee OA was defined using the ACR criteria of classification of OA of the knee . These criteria include knee pain, age over 50, joint stiffness, crepitus, bony tenderness and/or enlargement, osteophytes and no palpable warmth.
Types of interventions
Interventions using heat or cold therapy only were included in this review. Trials that compared thermotherapy with standard treatment and/or placebo were included. Concurrent therapies such as exercise were accepted. Trials comparing head to head therapies, such as two different types of diathermy, were not included in this review, but will be included in a future review on electrotherapeutic measures.
Types of outcome measures
The primary outcome measure was pain relief according to the Outcome Measures in Rheumatology Clinical Trials . In addition, the other outcome measures from OMERACT 3 were also included for potential analysis. These were change in function, number of tender joints, number of swollen joints, and patient and physician global perspective on disease.
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The Benefits Of Heat For Injury
Heat therapy works in the opposite mannerit is a vasodilator, which increases circulation by expanding the blood vessels. This reduces pain and relieves cramping or aching muscles.
It also draws nutrients to the injured area, aiding the healing process, while helping the bodys cells get rid of waste products.
Unlike ice, heat can make inflammation worse.
What Is Better For Knee Pain: Heat Or Cold
January 20, 2022 by max
Ice and heat are two of the most commonly used treatments for physical ailments. When people injure themselves, the first course of action is often to apply compresses and gels that boast hot or cold to the afflicted area.
However, many people dont actually know what they are doing and will have no idea whether heat or cold is the correct choice for their particular problem. As a result, they will often take actions that offer no benefit or can even make the situation worse.
With that in mind, I am going to try and help you figure out the right course of action in one specific area, as we take a closer look at what is better for knee pain: heat or cold. I will explain the preferred choice for some of the most common issues and symptoms while outlining exactly why it works.
This should give you everything you need to heal your injury and ensure you never make the wrong choice again.
Recommended Reading: What Causes Inflammation In The Knee
How Does Ice Work
First, we need to understand how each of these treatments work. Lets begin with ice.
Ice has long been thought of as natures pain killer. It has powerful effects on the human body when applied to the skin, some of which we have only recently begun to understand.
Ice has been used for many years as a form of pain relief, and there are accounts of ice being used to treat injuries in the earliest days of mankind.
Ice works through a couple of mechanisms:
- Ice, when applied to the skin, produces an effect called vasoconstriction in the blood vessels which basically means the small vessels narrow and shut down blood flow to that area. Thats one of the reasons ice is so useful for swelling, such as after an ankle sprain.
- Ice also has an effect on the nerves around the area, dampening their signals which means we feel naturally less pain with an injury.
- Ice also encourages a flushing out of the potentially harmful chemicals around an injury site and reduces inflammation.
How To Safely Apply Ice And Heat
You can apply ice and heat in lots of ways. Our experts generally recommend up to 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off:
- Ice packs: Frozen peas or corn, ice cubes in a baggie or frozen gel pack. You can ice beyond 48 hours, until swelling, tenderness or inflammation are gone.
- Ice massage: Freeze water in a Dixie cup, peel back the top, and massage the tender area until its numb. .
- Cold masks: Place a cold mask, available at drugstores, over your eyes or lay a towel soaked in cold water over your forehead and temples.
- Moist heat: Enjoy a bath, shower, hot tub or whirlpool using warm, not hot, water .
- Heat wraps: Drape a heat wrap, available at drugstores, around your neck like a scarf .
- Heating pads: To avoid burns, remove heating pads if the area becomes uncomfortably warm.
Recommended Reading: Can Gout Form In The Knee
Tips To Reduce Knee Pain In Cold Weather
If you suffer from painful knees in cold weather here are some simple tips to reduce the impact and help you manage your symptoms more effectively:
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How Often Should I Use Ice Or Heat For Joint Pain
As long as youre being smart about which therapy you use and careful about how to use it, Dr. Torres-Panchame says they are okay to use repetitively throughout the day.
It doesnt need to be a formal sit-on-the-couch-with-your-leg-up type of treatment. You may find youre already benefitting from thermal therapy without even realizing it. If taking a hot shower or bath every morning is very soothing to your joints, then youre already reaping the benefits of heat therapy.
Other patients say that washing their hands with hotter-than-usual water is a quick way to sooth their hands throughout the day. Some people report that they actually like washing dishes after meals because its an easy way to use heat therapy.
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Appendix 1 Medline Search Strategy
1 exp osteoarthritis/ 2 osteoarthritis.tw. 3 osteoarthrosis.tw. 4 degenerative arthritis.tw. 5 exp arthritis, rheumatoid/ 6 rheumatoid arthritis.tw. 7 rheumatism.tw. 8 arthritis, juvenile rheumatoid/ 9 caplan’s syndrome.tw. 10 felty’s syndrome.tw. 11 rheumatoid.tw. 12 ankylosing spondylitis.tw. 13 arthrosis.tw. 14 sjogren$.tw. 15 or/114 16 heat/tu 17 .tw. 18 cryotherapy.sh,tw. 19 .tw. 20 exp hyperthermia, induced/ 21 .tw. 22 .tw. 23 or/1522 24 clinical trial.pt. 25 randomized controlled trial.pt. 26 tu.fs. 27 dt.fs. 28 random$.tw. 29 placebo$.tw. 30 adj ).tw 31 sham.tw. 32 or/2431 33 23 and 32