Why restrict heat application?

by Sandra F.

I have reflex sympathetic dystrophy and bursitis of both hips as well as RA affecting my wrists, feet, and both hands, especially the knuckles and middle joints of the index,middle and ring fingers of both hands.When I was diagnosed with RSD after bilateral rib resections, the internal medicine Dr. advised me to avoid ice as he believed ice would increase as well as trigger symptoms of the RSD.I had been using cold compresses on my arms as they felt like they were on fire, and he said that likely contributed to the RSD. I find heat on my aching joints very soothing. could this contribute to an increase in my symptoms? could you suggest something, please? thank you very much.

Hi Sandra,

This is a great question. In regards to RSD, heat and not ice is advised. RSD is not considered a joint condition but rather a neurological condition and thus the rules are different. With RSD nerves become hypersensitive and thus ice should not be utilized. If the heat is helping stick to the heat if you have an underlying RSD condition.

In regards to arthritis pain (without underlying RSD), arthritis refers to inflammation of the joint. One of the signs of inflammation is heat, thus adding more heat to the region will only increase the inflammation. Although it is temporarily soothing it will prolong the inflammation. If you have only stiffness, heat is fine to use. However, if you are experiencing pain, stick to ice to reduce the inflammation.

Hope this helps!

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