Heat for rheumatoid arthritis

Heat therapy for rheumatoid arthritis

Published: May, 2015

Heat helps improve your pain tolerance and relaxes muscles, both of which can reduce the pain of rheumatoid arthritis. Heat treatment remains a standard part of the physical therapist’s practice. But you don’t need to visit a physical therapist to reap the benefits of heat therapy. Here are some techniques you can use at home.

Warm bath or shower. A hot tub or a bathtub equipped with water jets can closely duplicate the warm-water massage of whirlpool baths used by professionals—for most people, the bathtub works nearly as well. Soaking for 15 to 20 minutes in a warm bath allows the weight-bearing muscles to relax.

A warm shower can also help lessen the stiffness of rheumatoid arthritis. You can upgrade your shower with an adjustable shower-head massager that’s inexpensive and easy to install. It should deliver a steady, fine spray or a pulsing stream, usually with a few options in between.

After a warm shower or bath, dress warmly to prolong the benefit.

Heating pad. A heating pad is another good idea, but keep in mind that moist heat penetrates more deeply than dry heat. Although you can purchase hot packs and moist/dry heating pads, a homemade hot pack works just as well. Heat a damp folded towel in a microwave oven for 20 to 60 seconds (depending on the oven and the towel’s thickness) or in an oven set at 300° F for five to 10 minutes (again, this depends on the oven and the towel’s thickness). To prevent burns, always test the heated towel on the inside of your arm before applying it to a joint: it should feel comfortably warm, not hot. To be extra safe, wrap the heated, moist towel in a thin, dry one before placing it on the skin.

Paraffin bath. Some therapists recommend a paraffin bath. You dip your hands or feet into wax melted in an electric appliance that maintains a safe temperature. After the wax hardens, the therapist wraps the treated area in a plastic sheet and blanket to retain the heat. Treatments generally take about 20 minutes, after which the wax is peeled off. Paraffin bath kits are also available for home use, but talk with your physical therapist for recommendations and cautions before you buy one.

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10 Hot and Cold Therapy Tips to Tame Joint Pain

Doctors and physical therapists often recommend hot and cold therapy to soothe the aching or stiff joints of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and increase mobility. Together, these methods to temporarily relieve RA pain are referred to as “thermotherapy.”

While there is little evidence that thermotherapy is medically beneficial, a review published by the Cochrane Collaboration of hot and cold treatment for rheumatoid arthritis concluded that superficial moist heat and cryotherapy (cold packs or baths) can be used as palliative, or supportive, therapy. Paraffin wax baths combined with exercises can also provide beneficial short-term effects for arthritic hands.

Hot and cold treatments won’t prevent rheumatoid arthritis flares, but they can lessen the pain and inflammation. To ease these symptoms, some doctors recommend warming the joints before exercising and using cold on them afterward.

Hot Therapy for Rheumatoid Arthritis

For someone with an inflammatory disease like RA, applying heat may seem counterintuitive. But since heat works to reduce muscle tension and stimulate blood circulation, many patients find that applying something warm — even if it just means warming your clothes in the dryer before dressing, or lying with a heated blanket prior to getting up in the morning — simply feels good on the joints.

“Gentle heat in the morning can improve your range of motion,” explains Katie Palmer, a physical therapist in Newtown, Pennsylvania. “It can relieve some of the joint pain and the stiffness and prepare your body for exercise or to get up and get moving and out the door.”

One version of hot therapy is the paraffin, or wax, bath, similar to what’s used in nail salons to soften the skin and nails. “The paraffin is heated to a prescribed temperature and then you dip in your hands, wrists, and fingers, and it forms a coating,” Palmer explains. “Then you wrap your paraffin-covered hands and wrists in a little towel, and it gives you a nice moist, deep heat that can help eliminate some of the pain and stiffness of RA.”

Palmer recommends paraffin therapy for the hands when they’re stiff, like first thing in the morning, but not when the joints are inflamed. “When the joints are acutely inflamed, when things are a little bit out of control, it’s more useful to use a cool temperature to decrease the inflammation and the swelling,” she says.

Palmer also offers up a possible alternative. “Applying warm compresses (such as hot water bottles) works in a similar way to a paraffin bath,” she says. “Research has shown warm compresses provide pain relief for patients with RA and help to increase hand and finger range of motion when combined with exercises. It also helps to decrease overall stiffness.”

Cold Therapy for Rheumatoid Arthritis

If your joints are inflamed, it makes sense that something cold could ease the inflammation and thus the pain. The main benefits of cold therapy are reducing inflammation, swelling, and soreness, as well as temporarily relieving joint pain caused by an arthritis flare.

Like heat therapy, cold therapy comes in several forms. Cold packs that you place directly on an aching joint include everything from common items — bags of frozen peas or gel packs found at the drugstore — to complete systems of coolers, cooling pads, and devices shaped to certain parts of the body, like the knees and .

Another simple method of cooling the joints is a cool-water soak in a tub — just don’t let the water get so cold that you become chilled. There also are widely available over-the-counter cold sprays and ointments, such as Biofreeze and CryoDerm, that relieve inflammation by numbing the nerves.

One word of caution: If you have Raynaud’s syndrome, a condition in which small blood vessels in the fingers or toes constrict when exposed to cold, you probably should not use cold therapy on the affected part of your body. Of course, you should always consult your doctor or physical therapist before trying heat or cold therapy for rheumatoid arthritis.

Tips on Using Heat Therapy for RA

  • Use safe heat sources, including hot towels, hot tubs, showers, or baths, hot water bottles, microwaveable hot pads, and electric heating pads.
  • To prevent burns, do not use heat for excessive lengths of time (follow the manufacturer’s guidelines).
  • When using heating pads or hot water bottles, place a towel or cloth on your skin first, to prevent direct contact with the heat source.
  • Be careful to check your skin for redness often while applying heat, and remove the heat source if redness occurs.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using a paraffin bath device.

Tips on Using Cold Therapy for RA

  • Use a bag of frozen peas, wrap ice in a thin towel, or use commercially available cold gel packs for cold therapy.
  • Avoid applying ice or cold packs directly to the skin — use a towel or cloth between the cold device and the skin.
  • To avoid frostbite, do not apply cold for more than 15 minutes at a time.
  • Allow your skin to return to normal temperature and color before using cold again.

If you’re using one of these hot or cold methods and it doesn’t bring relief, or it seems to make the rheumatoid arthritis symptoms worse, talk to your doctor.

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Heat Therapy for Arthritis: 8 Simple Ways to Do It at Home

You take your meds, as you should. Maybe you see a physical therapist regularly or do yoga now and then to help manage arthritis symptoms — also smart moves. But even if you’re good about sticking to your treatment plan, there will be mornings when it’s tough to get your body moving. And there will be times when stiff, achy joints make tasks tough. And that is when you should try heat therapy.

“Heat therapy is primarily used to decrease pain and improve muscle flexibility in patients with arthritis,” says Maura Daly Iversen, PT, associate dean of clinical education, rehabilitation, and new initiatives at the Bouvé College of Health Sciences, Northeastern University.

Heat therapy won’t change or improve your condition, but it can help relieve arthritis symptoms. A review of research published by Cochrane found that superficial moist heat can be used as palliative, or supportive, therapy for people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Studies also showed paraffin wax baths combined with exercises help relieve arthritic hands.

How Heat Therapy Works for Arthritis Pain

Think of heat therapy as a way to thaw joints that are frozen stiff: The heat warms both the skin and the joints, says Iverson, who also serves as a spokesperson for the American Physical Therapy Association. That causes blood vessels to dilate, which gets more oxygen and nutrients to the joints and muscles.

“Improved blood flow to the tissue in the area helps remove pain-producing metabolites,” explains Iverson. Plus, heat stimulates receptors in your skin, decreasing pain signals sent to the brain.

Another way heat therapy helps arthritis: It loosens muscles to decreases spasms and reduce joint stiffness. “Heat therapy also improves flexibility by allowing the collagen — cells that make up connective tissue — to deform easily, leading to improvement in range of motion,” adds Iverson.

Heat therapy affects the body the same way, no matter what kind of arthritis you have. When you need it, however, may differ: People with RA or other kinds of inflammatory arthritis tend experience morning stiffness that lasts a few hours, says Iverson. Starting your day with warm shower, for example, will help ease symptoms so you can move better. If you have osteoarthritis (OA), symptoms may set in after prolonged sitting, so you may use heat at different times throughout the day.

Do Heat Therapy at Home

Moist heat penetrates deeper than dry heat from a heating pad, so you get more relief. Limit heat therapy to no more than 20 minutes per session, and make sure the heat feels warm, but not burning, advises Iverson. Talk to your doctor before trying any new therapy.

1. Take a warm shower

And while you’re in there, do gentle range-of-motion exercises, like neck rotations and wrist extensions, suggests Iverson.

2. Or soak in a warm tub

Immerse your body for 15 to 20 minutes to allow weight-bearing muscles to relax. Afterward, dress warmly to prolong the benefit.

3. Make a DIY hot pack

Heat a damp, folded towel in the microwave for 20 to 60 seconds (depending on the towel’s thickness). To prevent burns, always test the heated towel on the inside of your arm before putting it on your joint: It should feel comfortably warm, not hot. For an added layer of protection, wrap the heated, moist towel in a thin, dry one before placing it on the skin. You can also fill a rubber or soft plastic water bottle with hot water and rest it on an achy joint.

4. Or buy a moist heating pad, pack, or wrap

Some are specifically designed to fit your knees, neck, hand, or other joints.

5. Try a paraffin bath

This warm wax treatment is typically used for hands, and sometimes feet, says Iverson. Dip your hand (or foot) several times to coat with wax, wrap it in plastic or with a towel to retain heat for about 20 minutes, then peel off the wax. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and monitor for any skin reactions, advises Iverson.

6. Or mineral oil and gloves

Massage some oil onto your hands, put on rubber dishwashing gloves and run your hands under hot tap water for 5 to 10 minutes.

7. Stretch after heat therapy

While your joints and muscles are warm, do gentle stretches or simple range-of-motion exercises to increase mobility, says Iverson.

8. Ask about deep heat therapies

A physical therapist can perform other forms of heat therapy, such as diathermy and ultrasound, that reaches below the skin surface to the connective tissue and muscle. Talk to your doctor to see if this therapy is right for you.

When to Try Ice Therapy for Arthritis Instead

During an acute RA flare, or if you have inflammation with OA, cold is better, says Iverson. Cold can numb pain by causing blood vessels to constrict, which helps reduce swelling.

Keep Reading

  • The Tried-and-True Tips 13 Patients Use to Cope with Arthritis Flares
  • Got Painsomnia? These 9 Tips May Help You Sleep Well Again
  • 8 Daily Arthritis Hand Exercises that Can Soothe Your Pain

3 At-home Treatments for Psoriatic Arthritis

How to Deal With Your Psoriatic Arthritis At Home

What treatments can you do in your own home to ease chronic joint pain, inflammation, and other psoriatic arthritis symptoms?

Fortunately, there are many things you can do at home to make dealing with psoriatic arthritis much easier. Here are 3 ideas to try today.

  1. Heat and cold therapy: Can cold packs and hot packs really make a difference in how you feel? When it comes to psoriatic arthritis-related pain, yes.

    Cold packs have a numbing effect, which can help dull your pain, and heat can help relieve joint pain and swelling by relaxing sore muscles.1 Your doctor will let you know how long you can leave a heat or ice pack on.

    But you don’t have to use an ice pack or heating pad to get the benefits. For cold, you can use a bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel, and for heat, you can use a warm, moist towel or take a warm bath.

    When applying heat or cold for a long time, remember to wrap the ice or heating source in a towel before applying it directly to the body.

  2. Exercise and stretch at home: We all know that exercise boasts many benefits, but you don’t need to belong to a fancy gym to get your work outs in. At-home exercises are just as effective as exercising anywhere else. You can stretch, walk on a treadmill, buy or rent DVDs, and even download podcasts to get workout routines.
  3. Rest—but not too much: It’s important to get proper rest when you have psoriatic arthritis, but you don’t want to rest too much or you risk more joint stiffness and swelling. Balance your daily activities with rest. Find little ways to relax several times a day—do some deep breathing or just sit quietly.

As with any new treatments, you may want to consider running these past your doctor. He or she may have suggestions for specific exercises and length of rest period.

Also, tell the doctor what you’ve tried and if it helped or added to the pain—and that’s an important point to keep in mind. Even though these are “easy at-home treatments,” that doesn’t mean that these are guaranteed to be harmless. If you experience new pain or more pain, stop and talk to your doctor.

Incorporating these at-home treatments into your overall treatment plan for psoriatic arthritis can help make dealing with psoriatic arthritis much more manageable.

Updated on: 11/19/15 View Sources



Continue Reading: Eating Well With Psoriatic Arthritis

Taking a cold shower early in morning or to end the day commonly comes challenging to many people as most have been used to warm water to relax the body.

© Clive Mason/Getty Images Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Infiniti Red Bull Racing takes part in an ice bucket challenge during previews ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on August 21, 2014 in Spa, Belgium. Cold showers actually offer benefits to the body and could help improve health in a dozen ways, from changing the mindset to improving the skin and to reducing fats.

But cool showers actually offer benefits to the body and could help improve health in a dozen ways, from relaxing the mind to improving the skin and to reducing fats.

Here are 12 reasons to embrace the cold to enjoy the benefits of a cool shower:

1. Promotes fat loss

Yes, simply pouring ice cold water to the body can help cut weight. Cool showers activate brown fat, which generates heat around the body, according to Menprovement.

The increased activity of the “good fat” burns calories to keep the body warm. Research showed that cold temperatures can boost brown fat by 15 times higher than the normal amount.

2. Improves immunity

A study in England showed that regular cold showers trigger an increase in the metabolic speed rate and the amount of white blood cells in the body, which then help fight diseases.

3. Gives better circulation

An improved circulation means better overall cardiovascular health. Among the benefits of taking cold showers is a good blood flow. It allows the blood to rush down to organs to stay warm.

4. Drains lymphatic system

Cold showers help boost the activity of the lymphatic system, which works to carry out waste from cells. This then reduces the risk of infections.

5. Promotes emotional resilience

A study showed that cold showers can help develop a nervous system that is resilient to stress. The effort alone serves as a small form of oxidative stress, which the body would adapt overtime and teach the brain to prepare for stress.

6. Lowers stress

As the brain learns how to deal with stressful situations, cold showers could also help cut the levels of uric acid and boost glutathione in the blood, which help reduce stress.

7. Lowers chances of depression

Cold showers have been found to relieve symptoms of depression by stimulating “the blue spot” on the brain that releases noradrenaline, a chemical which plays a role in alleviating depression.

8. Increases testosterone levels

For men, even a small amount of heat can affect the DNA, RNA and protein synthesis in the testes. One study found that 15 minutes of increased heat in rat testes led to a significant decrease in testosterone. Which then suggested that cold temperatures could reverse the effect.

9. Improves fertility

Cold showers have been found to boost sperm count and increase fertility. Researchers said that it could also reverse the effects of hot baths that have been considered to be an effective male contraceptive.

In a previous experiment, men who took a half hour of hot bath every other day for three weeks became infertile for six months.

10. Promotes faster muscle recovery

A 2009 study showed that an ice bath after intense training improves circulation and helps remove some lactic acid, which could speed up the body’s recovery.

11. Enhances skin and hair

The benefits of taking a cold shower not only give better health, but also make people look better. Ice cold water can help reduce the risk of losing too many natural oils on the skin and hair, according to dermatologist Jessica Krant.

It also helps make the hair appear shiny and strengthens their grip to the scalp.

12. Ensures better sleep at night

A 10-minute ice bath could help people get incredible sleep at night, according to a book titled “The Four Hour Body.” The book states that taking a cold shower gives elephant tranquilizer-like effect that will put you straight to bed.

Related video: Taking a Cold Shower Makes You Take Fewer Sick Days Off At Work

Cold Showers >> Top 4 Reasons Why They Are Good for You

Do you get chills at the mere thought of an icy cold shower?

We can relate to that – there are definitely nicer things to imagine.

But you should still give the so-called James Bond or Scottish shower a chance – just read the 4 convincing reasons below!

#1 Cold water improves your circulation

If you have a hard time getting going in the morning, jump in a cold shower. Even if it’s really hard to do, you should alternate between cold and warm water when you shower. You’ll see how quickly it wakes you up. The cold water increases the circulation in your body, which leads to a higher demand for oxygen. You automatically start breathing deeper – this fights off fatigue.

Contrast showers – how to do it right

  • Rinse off with warm water.
  • Slowly make the water cooler.
  • First rinse off your right leg with cold water, starting on the outer side of your ankle. That is the spot farthest away from your heart. Work your way up gradually. Then rinse off your left leg.
  • Now it’s time for your arms: start on the back of your right hand up to your shoulder. Then start at your armpit down the inside of your arm to your palm. Do the same on your left arm.
  • Rinse the rest of your body with cold water. Repeat the above steps with warm water, then rinse your whole body with cold water one more time.

#2 …and improves your health

A cold shower in the morning does more than wake you up and improve your circulation. The cold and warm stimuli constrict and dilate your blood vessels, which strengthens your immune system. Studies have also shown that cold water reduces sore muscles and supports recovery after sports.

#3 Cold showers help treat depression

A study by the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine showed that cold showers have another benefit. They have a positive effect on people who suffer from depression: the cold sends more electrical impulses to the brain, which can help ease depression.

Keep in mind: Slowly turn the temperature of the water down until it’s about 20°C (70°F). Feel free to turn the temperature down even more if you want. You should take cold showers once or twice a day for several weeks for 2 to 3 minutes.

#4 …and stimulate weight loss

Cold water works wonders – according to numerous studies; it even helps you lose weight. Human beings have brown and white fatty tissue. Brown fat is the “good” fat that keeps us warm when we’re exposed to cold. White fat, in contrast, is stored when we consume more fat than we need – this is the fat that leads to obesity. If you take a cold shower, the brown fat is activated: body fat conversion increases and the body starts burning calories.


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