Can heat and/or cold therapy help with CMC arthritis?

Applying heat or cold to the thumb can help relieve Osteoarthritis (OA) pain. Both ice and cold pack can be helpful in decreasing the level of inflammation, muscle spasm, and/or pain. However, cold treatment does contribute to stiffness, so it is best not to use it before doing hand exercises. You can buy reusable cold packs and keep them in the freezer, or you can make your own cold pack with a bag of frozen vegetables or a plastic bag filled with ice. Place a towel between the ice pack and your skin, and apply the pack for at least 10 to 15 minutes at a time.

Many people prefer the soothing sensation of heat therapy over cold therapy. Heat therapy can help reduce pain, decrease stiffness and muscle tension, and relieve muscle spasms. You may find it helpful to use heat therapy before doing activities which will need a lot of mobility in your thumb, such as playing the piano.

One can put in the heat on the hand with the help of a hot pack, heating pad, or a paraffin bath. One can also get a hot pack loaded with gel or flaxseeds, heat it in the microwave, and apply it to your hand. Alternately, you can create your own pack by filling a sock with some uncooked rice and tying off the ends. Before using, microwave the sock for one minute and shake to distribute the heat. You can rest your hand on the sock or wrap the sock around your hand. An electric heating pad can also be helpful. With any hot pack or heating pad, place a towel between your skin and the heat source, and apply the heat for up to 20 minutes at a time.

Another compelling way to put apply heat to your hand is a paraffin bath. These are small tubs in which you can heat paraffin wax and mineral oil mixture. You need to let in your hand into the wax multiple times to get layers of wax. Then, keep the hand in a plastic cover and wrap it with a towel to keep the heat.