You know that pain relief can be as close as your freezer or microwave, right? Heat and ice therapy are both simple and effective therapies for the joint pain of arthritis.
Both heat therapy and ice therapy can ease painful, inflamed joints:
- Heat therapy can increase blood flow and ease muscle tightness at the site of pain. It also helps mute pain signals to the brain.
- Ice therapy decreases inflammation at the site of pain and provides numbing sensations.
Ice packs and heating pads or patches are readily available in many stores, plus you can save a few dollars and make your own at home. We have two articles that guide you through your options for using heat and cold therapy:
Making a gel ice pack
This do-it-yourself gel ice pack is better than a package of frozen peas, because it molds to your achy joints without any lumps or bumps. Use the video above to learn how to make one, or the instructions below.
- 1 quart or 1 gallon heavy duty plastic freezer bags (depending on your size preference)
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup rubbing alcohol
- Fill the freezer bag with 1 part rubbing alcohol to 2 parts water.
- Deflate the freezer bag of as much air as you can before sealing it shut.
- Seal the bag and add another bag to prevent leaks.
- Leave the bag in the freezer for at least an hour to chill, until it reaches a gel-like consistency. It won't freeze solid because of the alcohol.
- When you're ready to use it, take it out of the freezer and cover it in a towel. Direct contact between the gel pack and bare skin can damage the skin.
- Return it to the freezer for reuse.
Making a scented heat pack
Another video shows you how to make a reusable heat pack:
Or use these instructions can help you make one, with the option to make it scented, if you’d like.
- A fabric cloth sleeve, such as a sock or half of a pillowcase
- 4 to 6 cups filling of your choice (uncooked rice, flax seed, buckwheat, oatmeal, etc.)
- Needle and thread
- Optional: dry herbs or oils to add scent (lavender is a popular choice)
- Fill your sleeve nearly full with the filling and optional scent ingredients. Leave enough space so the filling can move in the sleeve a little and mold around your joint.
- Sew the container shut.
- Microwave pack for 1 to 3 minutes and apply to site of pain. Use a towel between the pack and bare skin to protect you from a burn.
Whether you are using cold or heat therapy, do not apply a pack for more than 15 minutes at a time. The best way to apply either heat or cold is to alternate 15 minutes on and 15 minutes off for an hour or two.