A Beginners Guide to PsA Pain Control: Non-medicinal treatments, Part 1

A big issue we all face with PsA is pain. There are many ways to treat pain and not all of them end with the medicine cabinet. It is best to find out what works best for you, as we are all individuals and as such, we all have different needs. If anything makes your pain worse; STOP. These are simply suggestions and tips. If you have any concerns or doubts about any of the information listed or have any comorbidities talk to your doctor before using any of these methods.

Hot and Cold Therapy

For quite a few PsA sufferers, this is a staple in their pain management regimen. It is an easy, inexpensive way to help control pain. Please note that none of these is to be used for more than 6-20 minutes out of every hour. Also you should not sleep with an ice pack on or with an electric heating pad.

Cold Therapy

Cold therapy can include ice water baths, a frozen bag of vegetables, a water-filled frozen soda bottle (20 ounce size), or cold packs purchased from a drug store. People typically use ice baths for hands and feet, and use the packs for other areas of the body like the lower back and shoulders.

To perform an ice water bath, fill a large pan or basin with cold water and ice. Remember not to overfill the container. You still need room for your hands or feet. You can either plunge your painful extremity in the ice several times over a ten minute period or soak them for a 6-8 minute period. If this is painful, you experience loss of sensation or does not provide relief, STOP. Not everyone's body appreciates the icy water.

Ice packs, rice packs, instant cold packs or commercial cold packs are also great for pain relief. Many people tolerate these methods better than the cold directly on skin. To make your own ice pack, simply add crushed ice to a zippered plastic back and wrap a hand-towel around it. To make your own rice packs, buy fun colored knee length socks and a large bag of white rice or even small round beans. Add the rice or beans to your sock until 2/3 to 3/4 full. You can either knot the open end or throw a few stitches in it for a more permanent closure. This makes a reusable pack that you can freeze (or microwave). After this is cold from the freezer, it can be draped across your neck, shoulder or knee, then it can be reused. When using cold therapy, remember not to exceed 15-20 minutes.

The soda bottle can be used for numerous areas. It is especially beneficial to use on the bottoms of feet or on one's back. Simply lay the bottle on the floor, and, using gentle downward pressure, roll the soda bottle along the bottom of the foot from toes to heel and repeat this motion. If you find this is too cold for you, try putting on a thin sock beforehand. To treat your aching back, the soda bottle can be placed on the floor. Lay slightly on top of the bottle with it positioned were you most ache. Using the rest of your body, roll yourself over the bottle several times. This can provide a "cold massage" along with lots of relief.

Heat Therapy

This is my personal favorite; I love warmth! Also, as my favorite topic, I have a lot more tips than for cold therapy, so you're in luck!

Electric Bedclothes can be great and come in a great variety. There are mattress pads, throw blankets and full sized electric blankets. These are especially good to employ in late fall and winter when it can seem impossible to get your bones warm. Make sure that if you select one of these to help with pain, that you choose one that is brand new, has auto shut off, and use it only as directed on the label. Make sure that you intermittently inspect the blanket for damage and the cords or cables as well. If is advised that you only use one of these at the same time. For instance: if you are using an electric warming mattress cover, do not use a heated throw or blanket at the same time.

Clay reusable packs are a personal favorite of mine out of all the non-disposable packs. They go in the microwave for 45 to 60 seconds depending on size and brand and come with a washable cover. What is really nice about these is that they're very moldable and have a nice weight. The weight can be very soothing when combined with the warmth of the clay. There are other reusable hot/ cold packs. The main difference between all of these packs is the content; some are filled will small pea-like balls, others are filled with gel. You can use the home-made rice pack described earlier for this same purpose and save yourself at least $10 over buying a ready made pack. This is really a matter of personal taste. I chose the clay packs because my Physical Therapist had used them on me and I really liked the feeling. You may have to try and return several types before you find your favorite. Packs come in all shapes and sizes from something small enough to tote in your pockets to large square packs for your lumbar area to curved ones perfect for resting over your shoulders to soothe your achy neck. There are also moist heat packs, hot water bottles, thermacare disposable pads, packs you can tie on, instant packs, and others. Explore several options before making a decision on purchasing something.

Hot tubs and whirlpool tubs can be great, if you don't have any skin issues. Hot water is known to irritate psoriasis, so if this is true for you choose another option for heat therapy. Fill the tub with warm to hot water and add a capful of essential oil such as lavender. Soak until your pain is relieved, making sure to moisturize thoroughly afterward especially if you are prone to dry skin. If you have time, get up earlier in the morning and take a soak in the tub instead of a shower to help loosen up your joints for the day.

That's it for the first edition. I hope you find at least one thing that appeals to you and helps you with your pain.

Great tips, especially with so many new people here on the forum recently.

Thanks, Stoney! I’ve always thought that I would do something like that for my blog, especially since there are always new people coming. I hope someone gets use out of it.

I’ve never heard of clay packs where can I find them.

Great advice! My DC echoes you on the limited time for cold and heat therapy, especially heat. He says that more than 20 minutes of heat, especially electric heating pads, destroys new cells. He is totally against electric blankets, says they interfere with the electrical system of the body.

When the weather is damp, or cold, I take my top sheet and blanket, throw them in the dryer, throw them on the bed, to warm the fitted sheet, and it is a welcome change from cold damp bed linens.

The clay packs are definitely at cvs, as I have gotten them there before. It’s just their store brand, so they were really cheap. I’ll google and see if I can find some links for you RebelMom

The clay packs sound great! I could use half a dozen today, GrumpyCat!

So the clay packs are available just about everywhere. The Online Drugstore, CvS, amazon are all the ones I just saw. I got smaller sizes 5x8 or so for my knees. I really like having weight plus heat.

Oh, the search I used was “clay hot cold pack”

Fantastic! Love this.

I personally love Thermacare stick on heat patches. If I've been really stiff and sore in one area, I put it on the area before bed, and when I wake up that area is flexible and less pain. The heat from those can be too much for delicate or older skin.

Thank you GrumpyCat! Great tips. I am a big fan of heat therapy as well....not so much cold. I have a great moist heat pack that I got from my physical therapist. It heats in the microwave for 60 seconds and conforms nicely to my neck and shoulder area.