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
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
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.
Cochrane Musculoskeletal Group (2004). Thermotherapy
for treatment of osteoarthritis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (2). Oxford: Update Software.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.