Article featured on Summit Ortho
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.
Arthritis is the number one cause of disability in our country. More than 50 million Americans are affected by this disease. This number 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.
New Mexico Orthopaedics is a multi-disciplinary orthopedic clinic located in Albuquerque New Mexico. We have multiple physical therapy clinics located throughout the Albuquerque metro area.
New Mexico Orthopaedics offers a full spectrum of services related to orthopedic care and our expertise ranges from acute conditions such as sports injuries and fractures to prolonged, chronic care diagnoses, including total joint replacement and spinal disorders.
Because our team of highly-trained physicians specialize in various aspects of the musculoskeletal system, our practice has the capacity to treat any orthopedic condition, and offer related support services, such as physical therapy, WorkLink and much more.
If you need orthopedic care in Albuquerque New Mexico contact New Mexico Orthopaedics at 505-724-4300.