Arthritis – Joints and Muscles Pain

Which Would Be Nice Heat or Ice?

imagesJM9840CYIt’s no secret that heat and ice relieve aching joints and muscles, but many people don’t know when to use which one. Heat and cold affect blood flow in opposite ways, so they have different applications, says Scott Lynch, MD, director of sports medicine at Penn State Hershey Medical Center in State College.

COLD THERAPY: Cold causes blood vessels to constrict, which slows circulation and reduces swelling. It also makes nerve endings less sensitive, dulling the pain.

  • Best for: Inflamed or swollen joints; acute pain and swelling from injury; bruises; sprains. Those with a condition that affects circulation shouldn’t ice injuries.
  • How to apply: To prevent frostbite, use ice for no more than 20 minutes at a time. Use a towel or other buffer between a cold pack and your skin.

 

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HEAT THERAPY: Heat widens blood vessels, delivering nutrients that heal joints and muscles, while relaxing tight muscles.

  • Best for: Chronic pain, sore muscles and spasms and morning stiffness.
  • How to apply: Moist heat from a shower or bath penetrates muscle better than dry heat. Use heat 20 minutes before working out. Apply a heating pad no more than 20 minutes at a time, and buffer the skin to avoid burns.

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