Saturday, August 22, 2009
Arthritis Knee Pain - Does Hot or Cold help?
Another question I am commonly asked is about heat or cold therapy.
Many people are confused as to which to use and why they work.
To correctly use these types of treatments, you need to know why you are using them.
Pain is not the answer I am looking for here, it is the cause of pain that is important.
Inflammation is part of the body's healing process. It is a reaction to tissue damage and is one of the first steps in repairing the damage. Unfortunately, the body often goes overboard and the inflammatory response is excessive leading to increased pain and swelling. Heat encourages inflammation as blood vessels dilate in response to heat. Putting heat on an already inflamed area makes the problem worse.
Cold on the other hand helps to prevent inflammation and can decrease the pain associated with it. This is why any sporting injury is initially treated with ice, and never heat.
So which do I use for my arthritis?
Simple question, not so simple answer.
Inflammation can be a component of osteoarthritic pain, especially after a flare up. For many people though, pain is a result of joint stiffness. Stiffness will respond well to heat and can be made worse by cold. This is why it is common for people to complain more about their arthritis in winter and why retirees live in Florida.
For the majority of people with osteoarthritis of the knee, heat will be the place to start. There will need to be a bit of trial and error but if a hot bath helps, a hot pack will too. If you find that heat makes your knee pain worse, it is likely you have an inflammatory component to your pain and cold is worth a try (combined with anti inflammatories if possible).
once again there is no blanket answer for everyone. You are an individual and your knees are too. Once you have learnt about them however, you will know what works and be able to do whatever you can when your knee pain is bad.