Knee pain is one of the most common and debilitating joint issues, affecting millions of people on a daily basis. Whether the pain is caused by an acute injury like a tear or overuse, or it’s the result of too much weight or regular wear and tear, there are a number of structures in the knee joint itself that can be the source of the pain. We’ve all heard of “icing” for pain, but sometimes, heat is a much better source of relief. When it comes to painful, swollen knee treatments, which is best, ice or heat?

The Pain Game

In the body, the pain response is nature’s way of telling us that something is wrong. Sensations of discomfort can take a variety of forms, from aching, throbbing or swelling to intense, sharp pain or burning. Pain itself is both an emotional and physical experience, involving a complex interaction between the nerves in the body and the brain, but there are generally two types:

  • Acute Pain is triggered by surrounding tissue damage, and is usually sharp, intense and severe to let you know about the injury and to prevent further damage but tends to resolve quickly.
  • Chronic Pain is more persistent, lasting over months and even years, and is often the result of wear and tear in the joint, though sometimes you can’t pinpoint the cause. Chronic pain is considered a health condition itself.

Nerve receptors in the skin, bones, joints, soft tissues, and around the internal organs send information about the body to the brain, and if there’s a pain response, you can help soothe the strain by applying either ice or heat to help the surrounding tissues. Which do you choose? The qualities of the knee pain can help you decide.

“Hot,” Sharp Pain

When acute pain is hot and sharp, it’s likely that you’re experiencing swelling in and around the knee joint and the best swollen knee treatment here is going to be icing the injury. As a general rule, ice is best for acute pain, inflammation and swelling. Heat perpetuates the cycle of inflammation and can be harmful.

  • Icing for 20 minutes at a time will constrict blood vessels which will relieve swelling pressure and push away inflammation
  • Icing will also help to numb the area by reducing nerve activity and its communication to the brain

Dull, Achy Pain

Chronic pain conditions are those that are usually the result of injuries older than 6 weeks old, and if you’re feeling stiffness, tightness, or aching after the inflammation has resolved, then applying heat will be a much better option for relief:

  • Moist heat is especially helpful for muscle spasms as it relaxes tight muscles.
  • Aching joints are often a result of decreased lubrication in the joint itself, and moist heat can help soothe that “dry” stiffness.
  • Heat increases blood flow, which will help the body spread pain-relieving hormones and move inflammation into the bloodstream for removal.

Has Knee Pain Impacted Your Daily Activities?

ViscoGen™ is Orlando’s leader in non-surgical knee pain treatment! Our goal is to help our patients return to an active, healthy lifestyle by reducing or eliminating pain using innovative, effective techniques with little-to-no downtime. Considering surgery for your knee pain? Contact us today for an appointment to review your options first!