Soaking in warm water, sipping coffee or hot tea, or cozying up in a warm blanket can make you feel as good as new. There's a logical reason that you reach for heat when you need quick relief from pain or stress. Stiff muscles, cramps, and arthritis pain are easily relaxed by heat. Also, blood flow is stimulated and circulation is improved, helping to increase your mobility, and reduce pain in swollen joints.
Cold therapy reduces inflammation, a major cause of the joint pain and stiffness of arthritis. Placing a cold pack on a swollen joint can also help bring down swelling, which will reduce pain.
Hot and cold therapies have individual uses. You should never apply heat to a joint that is already hot, red, and irritated. You should never apply cold to a joint that's stiff and immobile. Remember that heat relaxes; cold minimizes swelling.
Also, be careful when using hot and cold therapy to manage arthritis pain, because the extreme temperatures can cause skin irritation or damage.
Here are suggestions for safely using heat therapy devices:
- You don't want to burn yourself, so don't make your heat application too hot.
- To prevent burns, place a cloth between the warming source and your skin.
- Never apply heat to injured skin.
- Never apply anything hot to your skin for longer than 20 minutes.
Here are suggestions for safely using cold therapy devices:
- To prevent irritation or damage, place a cloth between the cooling source and your skin.
- If you have circulatory problems, avoid cold therapy.
- Never apply anything cold or frozen to your skin for longer than 20 minutes.
- Remove the cold source immediately if you notice any irregularities on your skin.
After using heat or cold therapy, always look at your skin for any signs of damage like a rash, blisters, or a change in color. Arthritis can be effectively managed by hot and cold therapy, as long as they are both used correctly.