You might have heard about the differences between heat and ice therapy and the advantages and disadvantages of each. Did you know, however, that they can actually be used together to help provide relief for conditions such as arthritis?
While there is no cure for arthritis, the pain and stiffness can still be treated with a good pain management strategy. When they are combined properly, cold therapy and heat therapy can provide a lot of relief, for not just the pain, but the stiffness as well.
Since no two people are exactly alike, how the two therapies are combined might take a bit of trial and error. There are so many products out there, including ice packs, heating pads, heated wash cloths, etc. It’s important to know which ones would be ideal for you, and at what temperatures.
Here are a few tips on how to combine these therapies to provide arthritis relief.
- When there is a flare up of pain, ice is usually recommended, as it reduces swelling and inflammation in the joints.
- When there is stiffness and tightness, a heat pad or wrap is recommended, as heat increases blood flow and oxygen to the area to allow a better range of movement. This means that heat therapy should be used prior to a workout. You really can get a good workout even if you have arthritis – all you have to do is use heat therapy to relieve muscle stiffness ahead of time and have an ice pack ready to reduce swelling after the workout is over.
- Do not use heat therapy at a high temperature. If you burn your skin, you will only make the situation worse. Even if a high temperature feels good on your skin, you could still burn yourself if you’re not careful.
- Don’t overuse an ice pack either. Use ice to numb the pain, and once you have succeeded in doing that, take the ice off. Never leave it on for more than fifteen minutes at a time. Take ten minute breaks in between.
- It’s also recommended that you wrap the ice or cold gel pack in a thin towel before applying to the affected area. When the swelling seems to go down, switch to a heat pack to help prevent stiffness.
- Choose the right type of heat therapy to help you deal with arthritis. Most people use hot packs, which can be either heated in the microwave or boiled in hot water for ten minutes or so. Depending on the severity of your condition, a warm shower or bath might be enough. It’s still a good idea to have a reusable , portable heating pad on hand just in case your joints get stiff at work or in the car.
- Consider taking an ice bath right after doing an intense activity. This may help reduce the amount of inflammation in your joints, as well as prevent the breakdown of your muscle tissues. You obviously won’t want to stay in an ice bath for more than a few minutes.
Regardless of which type of therapy and product(s) you use, alternating between cold therapy and heat therapy can do wonders for your arthritis.