Should I Use Heat or Cold for My Arthritis Pain?

hot or cold treatments for arthritis

Arthritis is a common condition that affects more than 54 million Americans, according to the Arthritis Foundation. It can cause chronic pain, stiffness, and swelling, making it challenging to carry out daily activities. There are numerous options available to manage arthritis pain, with heat and cold therapy being some of the most commonly used methods. But the big question remains, should I use heat or cold for my arthritis pain?  In this blog post, we’ll discuss the benefits of heat and cold therapy for arthritis pain, and help you decide which treatment will work best for you.

Heat Therapy for Arthritis Pain

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. It’s easy to use and is available in various forms, including heating pads, hot packs, and warm baths. Heat however is not recommended on swollen, red or irritated joints, that is where a cold pack will be helpful.

You can apply heat to your affected joints for about 15-20 minutes, 2-3 times a day. Heating pads and warm packs can be placed directly on the joint, while taking a warm bath or whirlpool will allow the heat to penetrate more deeply. Be careful not to apply the heat for too long, as this can cause burns.

Helpful Tip: Studies have even shown that wearing a low-level heat wrap for up to 8 hours (the kind you can find at your local drugstore) can significantly reduce stiffness and tension while increasing flexibility for up to 48 hours. And don’t forget about simple tricks like warming up your clothes in the dryer or cranking up your electric blanket for some added relaxation and pain relief.

Cold Therapy for Arthritis Pain

Cold therapy can also be an effective way to reduce pain and inflammation. It works by numbing the nerve endings and reducing blood flow to the affected area. Cold therapy is particularly helpful for acute pain caused by swelling or injury.

You can use various forms of cold therapy to reduce pain, including ice packs or frozen bags of vegetables. It’s essential to wrap the ice pack in a thin towel before applying it to the joint to prevent frostbite. Apply ice to the affected joint for 15-20 minutes at a time, 2-3 times a day. Cold therapy should not be used if circulatory problems exist.

Arthritis pain can be challenging to manage, but heat and cold therapy can both be effective options. Deciding which one to use depends on the type of pain you’re experiencing and the severity of your condition. Heat therapy can help relieve stiffness and improve circulation, while cold therapy can reduce pain and inflammation. Always talk to your doctor before starting any new treatment to ensure it is safe for you. With the right treatment, you can manage your arthritis pain and enjoy a better quality of life.

View Arthritis Splints and Braces

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splints and braces to help relieve arthritis pain

Our blogs are educational in nature and are not intended as a substitute for medical advice. Because your condition is unique to you, it is recommended that you consult with your health care provider before attempting any medical or therapeutic treatments. We are always happy to answer questions about products mentioned in our blogs, however, we cannot provide a diagnosis or medical advice.

7 comments on “Should I Use Heat or Cold for My Arthritis Pain?

  1. This is good,mostly common sense info. Comments like “MY PAIN MANAGEMENT DOCTOR TOLD ME TO USE WHICH EVER HELPED THE PAIN ; BE IT HEAT OR COLD . HE SAID JUST DON’T USE IT TOO LONG IN EACH SESSION .” are generally helpful, but people need some more specific guidelines, like “Don’t use an ice or gel-pac directly against the skin (use a cloth barier between skin and gel-pac), and limit the time ON to twenty minutues, and time OFF to forty-five minutes” or what ever is the PROPER time for each. I appreciate the helpful


  3. An Ice-Pack is always the perfect use. Thank you for writing this post, excellent information.

  4. Knowing when to use heat and when to use cold would greatly help in alleviating the pain of those who suffer arthritis. Although cold therapy doesn’t have that much equipment other than ice packs and such, knowing which heating pad to use can be greatly beneficial to those who are in pain due to arthritis.

  5. It’s good to know that cold temperatures can reduce the swelling induced by arthritis. My grandparents are currently struggling with severe arthritis.

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