The pain and stiffness caused by arthritis can be very restrictive. However, implementing regular use of heat therapy can alleviate arthritis symptoms. Heat can help arthritis patients by increasing range of motion and flexibility while reducing pain and muscle spasm. Warm temperatures work to relax the muscles and lower the pain threshold, allowing patients more muscular movement before they experience discomfort.

There are many ways arthritis patients can use heat therapy at home. Starting each day with a long, warm shower can ease arthritis pain and ease morning stiffness. Using an adjustable shower head may also be helpful in targeting soreness in specific areas. Taking a 15 to 20 minute hot bath immerses the body in heat and allows the weight-bearing muscles that work all day to relax. By dressing warmly after a shower or bath, the relaxing benefits of the heat can be prolonged. Heating pads are also effective. Most heating bags work best, as moist heat penetrates more deeply. Hot packs are also beneficial. A moist heating pad can be made at home by heating a damp towel in the microwave for 30 to 60 seconds or in a conventional oven at 300 degrees for 5 to 10 minutes. Patients should be careful and ensure the towel is not too hot by gently testing it on the inside of the arm. Heated damp towels can also be wrapped in a thin, dry towel to protect against excessive heat.

For stiff hands, applying mineral oil before putting on rubber gloves and running hot tap water over the hands can ease pain and loosen up muscles and joints. Warming clothes in the dryer before getting dressed in the morning and sleeping with an electric blanket may also help to keep muscles and joints loose. Some arthritis sufferers also find paraffin baths to be helpful. In order to have paraffin hand and foot baths at home, a device must be purchased to melt the paraffin wax. The hands or feet are then immersed into the wax and removed. Home paraffin wax units tend to be less expensive if purchased at a drug store versus a medical supply store.

Patients may consult their doctor or physical therapist for additional ideas of ways to use heat therapy for arthritis treatment. The key to successfully implementing heat therapy is to avoid overdoing it by ensuring that temperatures are kept warm but still comfortable.