Use Heat And Cold To Ease Arthritic Joints

When arthritic joints become stiff or painful, we explain how and when to use the application of heat and cold for arthritis for simple, effective relief.

heat and cold for arthritis

Arthritis is the number one cause of disability in our country. More than 50 million Americans are affected by this disease. This number that represents one out of every five adults and approximately 300,000 children. People of all ages and races are vulnerable to this joint-disabling condition. It is most common among women, and our chance of developing arthritis increases as we age.

Because there is currently no cure for arthritis, many people are under the impression that there is nothing they can do to manage their symptoms. In fact, medicine offers many helpful treatments for arthritis. Some therapies help with pain, and others improve the function of affected joints. In some cases, early treatments can actually slow the progress of the disease. Below we demonstrate how best to use heat and cold for arthritis.

One simple, inexpensive, and effective way for patients to treat painful joints at home is the application of heat or cold.

The trick is to know when to reach for a heating pad and when to use a towel-wrapped bag of ice or frozen peas to ease arthritic pain. We explain how temperature works to soothe a joint, and we distinguish between the type of pain that responds to heat versus the type of pain that responds to cold therapy.

Use heat to treat chronic stiffness in arthritic joints.

Heat encourages blood vessels near the surface of the skin to expand, increasing blood flow and relaxing muscles. When you wake up with sore joints, or if you feel stiff after a period of inactivity, a heating pad or a hot shower or bath will stimulate blood flow to your joints and help to make them feel more limber. A heat treatment is also a great way to prepare arthritic joints for exercise or activity.

Use cold to treat the acute pain caused by inflammation and swelling.

Pain following activity or a period of exercise is the result of soft tissue injury; broken capillaries leak blood and serum into adjacent tissues and cause localized swelling and inflammation. When a long walk or an afternoon in the garden leaves your joints feeling thick and painful, use cold. Cold applications cause the blood vessels to constrict, preventing further leakage and additional swelling, and relieving pain by numbing the sore joint. Use a bag of ice, a bag of frozen peas, or a gel-filled cold pack wrapped in a towel to protect your skin. Apply cold for 10 to 20 minutes. Remove for at least 20 to 40 minutes, and then repeat if necessary.

Generally, heat applications work best early in the day.

Use this as a jump-start for stiff joints. Icing is used at the end of the day to minimize any inflammation sparked by your day’s activities. If you have any questions about hot and cold treatments, talk with your doctor. At Summit, our teams of physicians and healthcare professionals can manage symptoms through a variety of conservative treatments designed to restore mobility, reduce pain, and protect the lifestyle you love.

When to seek treatment for your arthritis

Arthritis doesn’t have to spell the end of an active life. If you are experiencing worrisome symptoms or persistent pain, the renowned arthritis specialists at Summit Orthopedics can help. We work with you to confirm a diagnosis and develop an appropriate conservative treatment plan. If nonsurgical treatments fail to support your lifestyle goals, fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeons will consult with you and discuss appropriate surgical options. Summit is home to innovative joint replacement options. Our Vadnais Heights Surgery Center is one of only two surgery centers nationally to receive The Joint Commission’s Advanced Certification for Total Hip and Total Knee Replacement.

Start your journey to healthier joints. Find your arthritis expert, request an appointment online, or call us at (651) 968–5201 to schedule a consultation.

Summit has convenient locations across the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, serving Minnesota and western Wisconsin. We have state-of-the-art centers for comprehensive orthopedic care in Eagan, MNVadnais Heights, MN, and Woodbury, MN, as well as additional community clinics throughout the metro and southern Minnesota.

Share this on
Share on FacebookShare on TwitterPin on Pinterest

Also see...

  • toe arthritis

    Ask Dr. Anderson: What Causes Big Toe Arthritis?

    Dr. Anderson discusses conditions linked to big toe arthritis and explains treatment options.

  • Arthritis myths

    Ask Dr. Hansen: Separating Arthritis Myths From Facts

    We think of arthritis as an old person’s disease, and view knee and hip replacements as procedures reserved for elderly patients. Dr. Hansen talks about the common myths surrounding arthritis, and how these beliefs may prevent younger arthritis patients from enjoying a vibrant active life.

  • Arthritis: Many Types Cause Joint Pain

    There are more than 100 types of arthritis, and they affect approximately 46 million adults in our country. We explain how effective treatment begins with a proper diagnosis.