Osteoarthritis: Heat and Cold Therapy
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For moderate to severe pain from osteoarthritis, try applying heat and cold to the affected joints as appropriate. Experiment with these heat and cold techniques until you find what helps you most.
- Apply heat 2 or 3 times a day for 20 to 30 minutes, using a heating pad, hot shower, or hot pack. Heat seems to be effective for pain and stiffness related to inactivity of a joint.
- Try putting cold packs on a painful joint for 10 to 20 minutes. Do not apply a cold pack directly to bare skin. Put a thin towel or pillowcase between the ice and your skin.
- Try ice massage. A small study showed that ice massage for 20 minutes, 5 days per week, improved range of motion and function, although its effect on pain was less clear. 1
- Try alternating between heat and cold.
- After a heat or cold treatment, try some gentle massage for relaxation and pain relief.
Paraffin wax is a form of moist heat that may help if you have pain and stiffness in your hands or feet. It is especially useful before exercise. Your physical therapist can teach you to use paraffin at home.
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|Primary Medical Reviewer||Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||David A. Fleckenstein, PT, MPT - Physical Therapy|
|Last Revised||April 8, 2011|
Last Revised: April 8, 2011
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