Video Q & A:

RA Pain 101


What's better for joint pain: heat or ice?

Expert:   Jason Faller, MD, »

You're in the drugstore, confused about whether you should purchase hot packs or cold packs. Which work best to relieve your joint pain? Watch this video for clarification.

Transcript: The truth is, neither ice NOR heat are better than the other. In fact, TOGETHER, they’re pretty much the best natural pain relievers there are. What DOES matter though is WHEN you use each on an achy joint. The best time to use ice directly is when a joint is swollen or warm. Applying COLD helps constrict the blood vessels, bringing down swelling and tenderness. For chronic arthritis pain, ice your joint up to 4 times a day for about 15 to 20 minutes. A plastic bag of ice cubes, a store-bought cold pack, or even a bag of frozen veggies should do the job. Remember to put a towel between your skin and the ice to prevent frostbite. The best time to apply HEAT is AFTER the swelling has gone down. Heat helps relieve stiffness, soreness, and promotes blood flow. Moist heat like a hot towel or bath works best, but you can also use a hot water bottle or heating pad. Like you did with the ice, apply heat for 15 to 20 minutes, up to 4 times a day. Some people like to alternate ice and heat: 10 minutes ice; 10 minutes heat. But you have to judge what is best for your sore joints and how you react to both hot and cold therapy. More »

Can't Find an Answer? Send us your question »