Ankle Degenerative Joint Disease: get relief with heat and cold therapy

Published: 24th August 2010
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If you have ankle degenerative joint disease you will have to use various different therapies to control your symptoms. I am sure you have all heard of using hot or cold on an arthritic joint and on injuries but this is an area where I have found much confusion in patients. Actually it is a really simple and effective relief from your ankle degenerative joint disease.

This article will explain when to use cold and when to use heat, suggest what you can use as hot or cold packs and tell you how long you should leave the pack on for ankle degenerative joint disease. So let me start with cold.


When to use cold therapy.

When you start to get pain from your ankle degenerative joint disease during an activity it is often the muscles, tendons and ligaments (soft tissue) that is giving you pain as they is can only function comfortably for a limited time.

Basically cold reduces inflammation of soft tissue but without the side effects of anti inflammatory drugs! That is why you should always use it on a new injury and not heat. Inflammation produces heat and heat produces inflammation so if you use heat when you should have used cold then the inflammation can increase if you are not careful and an hour later you will feel worse.

At this point may I say that if you get pain in your ankle joint as soon as you weight bear on it or all and every time you move it then go and see a health care professional as replacement may be your only course of action or you may not have DJD but a different problem. Only very severe ankle degenerative joint disease will give pain immediately, even with moderately severe you will be able to do a small amount of activity with not much pain.

What to use as cold pack

By all means go and buy a 'proper' ice pack if you wish but if you do make sure it is large enough to wrap all around your ankle. Also make sure it is flexible enough when frozen to wrap around the joint and fit into the contours of the body.

Personally I have always found frozen peas work just fine (I don't recommend eating them after though!). The reason I say peas is because they are small so fit around you better than say broccoli. Also they are cheap and easily replaceable when the bags eventually split. For example either buy 2 large bags and rest you ankle on one and put the other on top.

How to use a cold pack.

When icing NEVER place the cold pack next to your skin as you will get an ice burn. Wrap it in a tea towel or place it over your clothes but not something that is too thick as you do want to feel the cold.

How long to leave a cold pack on for.

Wrap as much of the ankle joint in the ice pack as you can and leave it on for 15 minutes. If you need to use cold again then please leave 1 hour after taking the pack off to putting it on again.


When to use heat.

Heat should be used when your ankle degenerative joint disease is giving a stiffness type pain having been sedentary. For example first thing in the morning if you get stiff then use heat as it will help the soft tissue to warm up and work better. (Same principle as athletes warming up). To be honest becoming a morning showerer or bather for an DJD sufferer is a really good idea as it will get you going much quicker than anything else.

Please note that if you shower after an activity then you are putting heat on when it should be cold really. If you have come in from the gardening for example and need a shower then by all means have one but put an ice pack on after otherwise you will increase the inflammation and feel worse later.

What and how to use as a heat pack.

Simple answer is hot water bottles although if you want to use expensive packs you heat in the microwave feel free. Water from the hot tap is better than boiling water from the kettle (too hot!) and then wrap it in a towel before placing it around your ankle joint in the same way as a cold pack. Again you need to wrap it around so don't overfill it and you may need two of them.

How long to use a heat pack.

Same as a cold pack actually so 15 minutes and you need leave an hour between sessions.

If you are out and about…

and need a cold pack then cold gels and creams are the next best thing and easily carried with you. Also you can use heat rubs if you prefer but personally I either don't like the smell or I can't bear the burning sensation as I use them! (Yup I am a complete baby when it comes to pain!).

So in summary heat and cold are a very good way of helping to control your ankle degenerative joint disease. They are easy to do and on the whole pretty safe with little or no side effects.

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