Heat Therapy Can Help Ankylosing Spondylitis

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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If you have ankylosing spondylitis (AS), inflammation most likely causes joint pain, especially in your spine. You may also have tight muscles. Have you ever wondered what you can do to ease your pain and soreness naturally? Applying heat is one pain-relief strategy that can make a big difference in how you feel. Heat helps relax your muscles and increases blood flow to painful areas to reduce muscle spasms.

There are many different ways that you can incorporate heat therapy into your treatment program. The simplest is taking a warm shower or bath, or soaking in a whirlpool.

Three other ways of applying heat can also help.

Heat wraps.You can find these therapeutic heat pads at your local drugstore. The patches are very thin and you can wear them underneath your clothing. Some types stick directly to your skin, which can make them more convenient than a traditional heating pad. If you buy the Velcro pads, you can reposition them as needed, depending on where you feel pain. Some heat wraps produce heat for as long as eight hours.

Electric heating pads.Traditional heating pads are just as easy to find. They deliver heat through a wrap that you can pull around tender spots. Some offer a moist heat option, which will feel nice on painful areas. Most heating pads need to be plugged in. This makes it trickier to move freely with them. Plan to use a heating pad while reading in bed, working at your desk, or watching TV. Start by using one on the lowest heat setting for 20 minutes at a time.

Paraffin therapy.During cooler months, your hands and feet may feel stiffer than usual. Paraffin therapy involves coating your hands and feet with warm wax to deliver heat to these specific areas. Some nail salons offer paraffin therapy. You can also find paraffin wax treatment systems at many stores. With a home system, you dip your hands and feet into the melted wax. Once your hands or feet are covered, you wrap them in a special plastic bag to hold the heat in. Then, you wait about 20 minutes before peeling off the wax. Bonus: The treatment softens your skin, too.

Key Takeaways

  • Ankylosing spondylitis may cause joint pain and tight muscles. Applying heat is a natural pain-relief strategy.

  • The simplest way to try heat therapy is to take a warm shower or bath or soak in a whirlpool.

  • You can also apply heat directly to painful areas using heat wraps and heating pads.

  • Wax paraffin therapy may reduce stiffness in hands in feet. You can find this service at salons, or try it yourself with a home system.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2022 Aug 11
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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