Hot and Cold Pain Relief
Here at OrthoArizona, we know that when patients are dealing with stiff joints and tight muscles, they want pain relief. The best way to get that is through hot and cold therapy. Let’s take a look at some popular temperature therapies.
Heat and ice can be used in two different ways. Heat helps soothe stiff joints and relax muscles while cold helps numb sharp pain and reduce inflammation. For those dealing with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, back pain, fibromyalgia, and neck pain, this type of therapy can be extremely helpful.
When used for short-term relief, packs and compresses are an excellent idea. Patients can make packs from several different items around the house, such as an electric heating pad, a gel pack that can be microwaved or frozen, or a bag of ice or frozen vegetables. Whether using hot or cold, always remember to wrap the pack in a towel before using. A compress can also be made using a washcloth or small towel soaked in hot or cold water, wrung out, and folded. Be sure to cover with a dry towel to insulate it, and then apply to the painful area for 15-20 minutes several times daily.
Patients should know that it is normal for skin to look a little pinker after using cold or heat. Before adding new ice or turning the heat back on, however, remember to let skin return to its normal color and temperature. There are signs the temperature was too extreme and may indicate skin damage after using hot and cold packs. These signs include purplish-red, dark red, or spotty red and white color, hives, swelling, and blisters.
Another way to use heat is low-level heating. If patients find that heat helps ease pain, try a continuous low-level heat wrap, which is available at drugstores. It’s a convenient way to keep painful areas warm. Patients can wear a heat wrap for up to 8 hours, even while sleeping. Just remember to follow the directions carefully.
Studies suggest that low-level, long-term heat applied directly on the skin can significantly reduce stiffness and tension and increase flexibility. Positive effects can last for 48 hours or longer.
Hydrotherapy is another option for patients. Showers and baths aren’t just for getting ready in the morning. When patients are hurting, stand under or settle into warm water for a few minutes to help soothe and relax the body. (For patients who are over 70 or have heart problems, check with your doctor before getting into a hot tub.) Try a warm shower or bath before exercise to help loosen joints and muscles. On the other hand, using cool water may help calm deep, burning pain and reduce inflammation. Keep in mind, a bath can be for the whole body or just a part.
The advice and information contained in this article are for educational purposes only and are not intended to replace or counter a physician’s advice or judgment. Please always consult your physician before taking any advice learned here or in any other educational medical material.
©Medical Marketing Solutions, 2012The advice and information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and are not intended to replace or counter a physician’s advice or judgment. Please always consult your physician before taking any advice learned here or in any other educational medical material.