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Can Warmers Ease Pain and Provide Comfort for People With Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Applying heat to painful joints can be very soothing. Some available warmers are luxurious in their look and feel.
By Carol Eustice
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If you live with a chronic pain condition, such as rheumatoid arthritis, pain relief is your primary focus. Optimal results for pain relief are usually achieved by using some combination of treatment approaches for RA. You have to look beyond your medication regimen, since the most effective drug or combination of drugs does not provide 100 percent relief.
Home Remedies and Complementary Joint Pain Treatments
When you do look for adjunctive treatment for pain, consider things that you can have readily available at home. Common characteristics of RA include morning stiffness and flares. By definition, a flare is an unexpected spike in symptoms, so to have something on hand that can help to bring a flare under control is ideal — and a necessity.
Heat Therapy Can Help Relieve RA Pain and Discomfort
Have you ever had back pain or neck pain which was relieved by using a heating pad? Many, if not most, households have a heating pad. Heat can be very effective when applied to painful joints or muscles. I think most of us would agree that heat application is comforting and soothing.
Studies Support the Use of Heat as Adjunctive Treatment for RA
A review published in the Cochrane library assessed heat treatment, or thermotherapy, for rheumatoid arthritis. The reviewers found that there was no significant effect of hot packs on disease activity, including joint swelling, pain, intake of medication, range of motion, grip strength, or hand function compared with no treatment or active therapy.
Still, they concluded that heat therapy is appropriate as a palliative or adjunctive treatment, especially when combined with exercise. It also seems most beneficial for the hands.
Some experts suggest that heat helps to improve pain tolerance and relaxes muscles, both of which contribute to relief of pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Heat has long been used routinely in physical therapy clinics, but you can reap the benefits at home, too. Try taking a warm shower or bath, using a heating pad, or having a at home.
Stylish and Comfy Warmers and Wraps Are Now Available
Warming devices have come a long way from the basic heating pad, and today's warmers are anything but ordinary. Some of these products have become popular because they're made from luxurious materials, creating an experience which goes beyond ordinary, functional, or medical.
There are a number of warmers available, most designed for specific body parts. I tried three different warmers which caught our eye. The warmers which I reviewed are available from Gardener’s Supply Company. I admit that, at first, I wondered why a gardener’s supply store would be selling warmers. I quickly realized that gardening is a physical task and can cause aching joints, especially in someone with an existing condition, such as RA.
I reviewed the Eucalyptus Lumbar Wrap, Lavender Happy Mitts, and Lavender Wrist Warmers:
Eucalyptus Lumbar Wrap
This wrap is usable on the waist, shoulders, and back. It comes with two different inserts: a microwaveable insert filled with rice, flaxseed, and eucalyptus, and a gel pack for cooling.
For heat, the grain insert is removed from its cover and heated in the microwave for one minute on medium. You should test by touching it, and if you desire a higher level of heat, shake the insert, refold in the opposite direction, and reheat in 30 second increments until you get it just right. Then place it in the cover and use. The wrap should feel moist after heating. If you want more moisture, you can mist the insert before following the above directions.
.95 at Gardener's Supply Company
Lavender Happy Mitts
These mitts are used to comfort aching hands. The core of the mitts contains rice, flaxseed, and lavender. The mitts are heated in a microwave for one minute on medium. After testing the mitts, if you prefer them to be hotter, shake, refold in the opposite direction, and reheat in 30 second increments. Mitts should be moist after heating but if you prefer more moisture, you can mist the insert and then heat in the microwave.
.95 at Gardener's Supply Company
Lavender Wrist Warmers
These wrist warmers are filled with rice, flaxseed, and lavender and are used to soothe aching wrists. They are heated in the microwave on medium for 45 seconds. If you desire more heat after testing the mitts, shake, refold in the opposite direction, and reheat in 30 second increments.
.95 at Gardener's Supply Company
I have described how easy the three items are to use. It is important to add that they truly do soothe and comfort, in my opinion. Products that combine heat and aromatic natural botanicals, encased in a cover that either is velvet or feels just like velvet — a light blue cover for eucalyptus, and purple for lavender — were clearly designed to provide comfort. And they hit the mark!
In closing, I would like to highlight three noteworthy points:
- My favorite of the three was the lumbar wrap. It goes on like a bathrobe belt, with a wider lumbar region of course, and you are able to move around while wearing it. That’s much preferred to being confined to one spot if you are using a warmer that needs to be plugged in.
- I cannot attest to their effectiveness for pain relief because I have no pain in my lumbar, hands, or wrists.
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