How does Hot and Cold Therapy helps to Relieve Joint Pain?

by Sam Malone

Do you suffer from aching joints? Does a simple task like putting on a shirt or walking down the stairs take forever because it's just so painful? Painkillers can only do so much to relieve joint pain and in the long run, you may require a non-medicated approach to treat this condition. This is where hot and cold therapy can help. Hot and cold therapy is a popular non-invasive treatment for joint and muscle pain. It can be performed at home and on a daily basis making it a useful remedy for caregivers and laymen alike.

Hot and cold therapy works on the principle that you use the healing power of your own body to work to your advantage. The heat component of this therapy relaxes muscles and decreases muscle spasms. By dilating the blood vessels in your body, heat can also reduce pain and increase circulation. Heat can be administered in a number of ways - through warm baths, hot compresses, heating pads and even heating lamps. Cold therapy uses cold compresses or ice packs to numb any feeling of pain. This constricts the blood vessels and reduces swelling and inflammation of the joints.

If you get up with aching joints, try and sleep with an electric or heated blanket / mattress. However, heating pads should never be used through the night as they can short circuit and cause a fire. Look for a heating pad that comes with an automatic off switch in case you fall asleep while using it. People who complain of joint pain in their hands benefit greatly from regular paraffin baths. Just melt some paraffin and mix it with mineral oil. Dip your hands into this warm paraffin mixture and let the heat penetrate through to your joints. The paraffin will soon harden around the hands and you can later just peel it off and melt it to be used again. As an added bonus this also softens the skin on the hands. The reason that heat helps with joint pain is that it relaxes you. Stiff muscles get soft, tension reduces and fatigue disappears. Heat also increases your range of motion allowing you to go about your daily routine a whole lot faster and in much less pain.

Cold therapy is especially useful when joints are inflamed or cause a burning sensation. Cold packs numb the pain and reduce the size of an inflamed joint. You can use an array of frozen objects in zipper bags to apply as cold packs. Frozen vegetables do the trick beautifully as obviously does ice cubes and ice chips. Apply this pack or bag to the affected area but never put ice directly on bare skin. There are special gel packs that can be bought from your drugstore that can be popped into the freezer and used again and again as well. Do not use cold packs for more than fifteen to twenty minutes at a time and avoid cold compresses if you suffer from poor circulation.

Try alternating between hot and cold packs and compresses. If you have aching feet, soak them first in a tub of warm water, plunge them into a basin of cold water for a few minutes and then back again in warm water. Wait for an hour minimum before starting another round of alternative hot and cold treatments. If you suffer from diabetes, have an open wound or stitches or if you are a hemophiliac, hot and cold therapy is not advisable.

Therapy for Joint Pain

Hot and cold therapy should be used with care. Never apply heat to a joint that is already irritated and red. In the same way, cold packs should not be used on joints that are stiff and unable to move. After using hot or cold therapy, look for any signs of skin damage or reactions. If you see any changes in color or burns and blisters, you should reevaluate the use of hot and cold therapy on your skin. Also, never use either hot or cold packs on broken skin or cuts and bruises.

The main thing to remember is that heat relaxes and cold reduces pain.

If you are considering hot and cold therapy for joint pain, make sure that you get the temperatures right. Too hot or too cold and you can burn your skin and cause skin damage. You need to find a temperature that you are comfortable with and you can tolerate for extended periods of time. Hot and cold therapy also takes time to work. Don't expect to see results immediately. Experiment with both forms of therapy and you will soon realize what works best for you and what combination of heat and cold benefits you the most.

Warning: The reader of this article should exercise all precautionary measures while following instructions on the home remedies from this article. Avoid using any of these products if you are allergic to it. The responsibility lies with the reader and not with the site or the writer.
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