Does Ice Help Gout Pain?
'Ice May Help A Bruise, But Can It Help Gout Pain As Well?'
The Short Answer –
Does ice help gout pain? Furthermore, if it does, how does it help the burning sensation of gout pain and just how effective is it? And finally, if ice does help gout pain, how should it be applied?
The evidence shows ice is highly effective, but needs to be applied properly to be most effective…
How… Does Ice Help Gout Pain?
Hot and cold therapy is something of a routine treatment nowadays for many types of pain. The theory is that while cold therapy helps to reduce inflammation and swelling, the heat pads then relax your muscles.
When dealing with gout however there is no muscular pain as such that needs to be treated. But there is most certainly plenty of painful inflammation and swelling – so cold therapy and more specifically ‘ice’ is often recommended for gout.
The benefits of applying ice to help gout could be summarised as follows –
1) Reduced Swelling
The ice is designed to provide a cold sensation to the joint or area to which it is applied. This cold causes the blood vessels around the joint to constrict, thus reducing blood flow and pressure around the affected joint.
By decreasing the blood flow to the gout-affected joint, the swelling and inflammation will also be reduced. As it is the swelling and bruising that are frequently the cause of much of the gout pain, so reducing it greatly improves your pain control.
2) Synovial Fluid Reduction
Too much synovial fluid is sometimes over-produced in response to the build-up of urate crystals, and can actually add to the swelling or pain of an attack (Gout being the result of too much uric acid building up and ultimately forming urate crystals that attach themselves to your joints causing great pain).
By applying ice or a cold compress to the affected area on and off on a resting joint can actually slow this production of joint fluid, thus easing the painful swelling.
3) Numbing Effect
Applying ice to an area of skin has been known to provide a numbing effect, both on the skin and just underneath.
Again, this can help with pain reduction, especially when gout makes the skin around the affected joint super-sensitive.
While gout may be the cause, it is your brain that ultimately receives and process the pain signals, before turning them in to actual feelings.
When asking ‘does ice help gout pain?’, it should also be acknowledged that the act of cooling an inflamed joint, the relief achieved can actually distract your body from properly transmitting the pain signals to your brain.
Poorly sent pain signals means they wont be processed correctly and your pain will be less than otherwise expected!
Does Ice Help Arthritis Pain – The Facts.
Numerous studies have concluded positively on the effectiveness of cold (or ice) therapy for a variety of pain relief applications including those requiring anti-inflammatory benefits.
However, in most cases hot and cold therapy were used in an on-off therapy regime to both slow down and relax muscles.
One study conducted by N Schlesinger for the Journal of Clinical Rheumatology however specifically tested and concluded that for ‘gouty arthritis’ (gout), cold applications were most effective on their own and that this in effect, was completely different to patients with other forms of inflammatory arthritis (for whom the use of both was better).
In summary, ice most certainly can help arthritis pain.
Important Considerations When Using Ice To Help Gout Pain
1) Don’t apply ice direct to your skin.
Wrap ice in a towel or thick cloth, before touching bare skin. Alternatively use a handful of frozen vegetables – but again don’t apply direct to skin, wrap it in a towel first.
If you don’t do this, then the ice/ frozen goods are likely to stick to your skin causing freezer burn and real damage. Cold therapy should never hurt!
Don’t follow the picture – if you try it in real life (without water added) the ice will stick to your skin and start burning)
Another option is just to buy one or two cold compresses that you can put in your freezer and re-freeze after each time.
These are both cleaner and much easier to use generally.
2) Don’t use your ice for more than 30 minutes at a time. You can re-apply an ice treatment 8 or 10 times a day if needed – but just not for too long in any one stint.
3) If you suffer with any of the following, please avoid using ice on your joints –
- Allergies to cold conditions
- Nerve damage in the gout-affect area
- Raynaud’s syndrome
Essential Advice – If you are applying ice or a cold wrap to your gout affected joint, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE DO NOT PRESSURE WRAP IT!
As a pain specialist writing this article, I know only too well that gout is very sensitive to touch. And people pressure wrap their gout thinking ‘no pain, no gain’. Sorry – if you try that with gout, it’s just pain!
This is because applying any pressure beyond that of the wraps normal weight can end up further bruising the delicate area and over-ruling the original benefit of the ice.
What To Do Next?
Using ice for gout pain can be done in a number of ways –
- Purchase a reusable cold pack that goes in the freezer,
- Put some peas or other small vegetable in a sperate food bag in the freezer for use on your joints (not to be eaten) with a small towel somewhere to wrap them in
- Put a damp towel itself in a bag in the freezer 20 minutes before you intend to use it, then get it and apply to joint (wont be frozen, but should be very cold)
- Purchase an instant disposable ice pack (they can be switched ‘on’ with basic manipulation) and get very cold in minutes.
The Final Word –
Does ice help gout pain? Absolutely. Indeed, when an attack is underway, it is one of the best methods for getting painful swelling and inflammation under control.
How you choose to apply it is up to you, but if you suffer with gout it is certainly an option worth keeping in your ‘tool box’.
If you have any questions, please don’t forget to ask them below – I’m always happy to respond!
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