Topic Overview

For moderate to severe pain from
osteoarthritis, try applying heat and cold to the
affected joints. 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. If you are using an electric heating pad, avoid falling asleep while the pad is on. If you think you might fall asleep, set an alarm clock to go off in 20 minutes. Use heating pads set on low or medium, never on high.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD – Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Joan Rigg, PT, OCS – Physical Therapy

Current as ofOctober 10, 2017