When and How to Use Hot and Cold Therapies

Woman suffering from pain in knee, using cold-hot pack to relieve pain in black and white tone. Health care concept.Joint pain can cripple you in an instant. Battling arthritis can be a constant struggle. So can the decision whether to use hot or cold therapies.

How can these two polar opposite pain-relieving therapies coexist? Easier than you might think. You just have to know how and when to use them.

How to Use Heat Treatment


Heat treatment can be used in a few ways. One is as a preventative measure. By keeping your body relatively warm and taking a proactive approach, you give yourself a chance to improve circulation and relieve stiffness.

What does that look like? It means taking a warm shower or bath upon waking. Spending at least 15-minutes under the warmth can help dilate blood vessels, lubricate joints, and encourage greater ease of movement.

The temperature should not be enough to burn and something that you can tolerate for 15-20 minutes.

Options for heat therapy include:

  • Long showers or baths (particularly useful in the morning to ease stiffness after a long night of sleep)
  • Electric blankets or warm heating pads for overnight use
  • Heating pads, if needed, throughout the day.

There is also some evidence that capsaicin, the active ingredient in chili peppers, can ease joint pain. It may cause a burning sensation at first, but the goal is for it to take effect over time by tricking nerves to become less sensitive to pain.

How to Use Cold Treatment

Cold treatment is better used for acute painful flareups to bring down swelling. Cold temperatures constrict blood vessels to control immune response in a relatively quick manner.


A good strategy is a 5 to 10-minute ice massage at the affected area. Do not directly apply an ice pack or something like frozen peas to your skin.

If pain lasts for more than 48 hours, use heat.

You can use a combination of hot and cold therapies, depending on what symptoms you’re experiencing. You might also find that cold or heat simply works better for you regardless of the symptoms you are experiencing. Experimentation is an excellent way to go.

Author Bio

Mohan Garikiparithi got his degree in medicine from Osmania University (University of Health Sciences). He practiced clinical medicine for over a decade before he shifted his focus to the field of health communications. During his active practice he served as the head of the Dept. of Microbiology in a diagnostic centre in India. On a three-year communications program in Germany, Mohan developed a keen interest in German Medicine (Homoeopathy), and other alternative systems of medicine. He now advocates treating different medical conditions without the use of traditional drugs. An ardent squash player, Mohan believes in the importance of fitness and wellness.