Treating Osteoarthritis with Cold and Heat Therapy
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a form of arthritis and is characterized by chronic degeneration of the cartilage of the joints. Cartilage is tissue that covers and cushions the ends of the bones in a joint and as we get older, as we have more wear and tear on them, the tissues break down.
The term arthritis refers to any painful inflammation and stiffness of the joints. The painful inflammation results from the breakdown of cartilage between joints and commonly affects knees, shoulders, and hip joints. Injuring a joint can accelerate the progression of OA, but even everyday activities can contribute to OA later in life.
Typical OA symptoms:
- Loss of flexibility
- Tenderness in the joints
- Grating or cracking sensation
Luckily, you have numerous treatment options to help manage your symptoms.
Both cold and heat can help treat your OA symptoms. For osteoarthritis, the heat seems to work best, however, people find that cold also helps to dull the pain.
You may find relief with both cold and heat. Experiment to see what works best for you. Use no more than 20 minutes at a time. and then give your body a break.
Cold reduces swelling and numbs the area. Applying ice to an aching area for 20 minutes will help reduce fluid in the tissue and decreases swelling and pain.
We recommend these reusable gel ice packs, but a bag of frozen vegetables makes a great ice pack too. Just make sure to wrap it in a T-shirt or light weight towel to prevent damaging your skin.
You can repeat the treatment two or three times a day as needed.
It is also a good idea to apply heat to your sore joints as heat opens the blood vessels, increases circulation ad reduces muscle spasms. Heat is also good for helping with pain and stiffness so often associated with OA. In addition, heat alters the sensation of pain which may seem mental and temporary, but it does make a difference.
You can do the same 20-minute treatment pattern with an electric heating pad or these heat/ice packs which can be heated or frozen.
After a heat or cold treatment, try some gentle massage for relaxation and added pain relief.
If pain persists, be sure to talk with your doctor.