Paraffin treatment for osteoarthritis

People suffering from osteoarthritis often have problems with sore and stiff joints, not least when they are under strain. This is a result of the production of the components of the cartilage being out of balance, causing the cartilage to break down gradually. This produces tenderness and swelling of the affected joints. The disease is chronic and cannot be completely cured, but there are various treatment methods that can both treat and prevent the pain. This includes, for example, physical activity and good eating habits. People with osteoarthritis in the fingers or hands can also try paraffin treatment. This type of treatment can increase joint mobility and at the same time reduce the pain.

What does paraffin treatment involve?

Paraffin is a petroleum product with waxy, insulating and softening properties. Since the substance has no color, taste or smell, it has started to be used in several areas, but mainly in manicures and pedicures. Paraffin as a treatment for osteoarthritis is one of the areas of use. Treatment with this product means that the osteoarthritis patient dips their hands in warm paraffin. This is supposed to make the joints more supple and more flexible at the same time as relieving the pain.

How does paraffin treatment work?

The treatment begins with the patient dipping their hands into a warm paraffin bath. The paraffin then forms a thin layer over the hands. When you take your hands out of the paraffin bath, the substance is kept warm using a glove or similar. Soon, the joints become warm. This allows you to do different exercises with your hands. These exercises increase or retain the mobility in the joints. For example, it may involve hand gymnastics with or without soft balls.

The treatment is not painful but it may cause a certain tingling under the nails. This is not dangerous. Most people even feel that the worst pain in their hands eases within a few days. It is usually necessary to have regular paraffin treatment for the best results. It is important to remember is that a paraffin bath does not cure osteoarthritis. Instead, it provides temporary pain relief and increased mobility in the joints. It may also make it easier to perform the exercises that can reduce the symptoms in the long term.

Is paraffin treatment scientifically proven?

Whether paraffin treatment for osteoarthritis is a scientific method or not is debated. The method has not yet been given much attention by the National Board of Health and Welfare in Sweden. Further research in the area is probably required in order to ascertain its clinical effect on the joints. On the other hand, there are many positive experiences of its pain-relieving effect on the joints. There are no potential risks or disadvantages of the treatment either.

The treatment is available to a limited extent from occupational therapists in primary care. Physiotherapists can sometimes also offer it to their patients.

Paraffin treatment – is it recommended for osteoarthritis?

Paraffin treatment is mainly used for joint pain in the hands and fingers, but it can also be used for pain in the elbows and knees. However, it is hard to treat larger parts of the body using this method.

There is research to show that paraffin treatment for osteoarthritis can be positive. The Swedish Agency for Health Technology Assessment and Assessment of Social Services (SBU) has written a report showing that treatment with paraffin may have a pain-relieving effect if it is done together with physical activity.

So, it may be the case that the exercises deliver the results rather than the paraffin treatment. On the other hand, the paraffin may make it easier to perform the exercises. The results are based on the experiences of the patients of more supple and more mobile joints with treatments like a paraffin bath.

Other treatment methods for osteoarthritis

If you suffer from osteoarthritis in your hands, fingers or feet, a paraffin bath could work as pain-relieving treatment. Until further research has been carried out on the medical effects of paraffin baths, the treatment should be combined with other methods such as customized exercises and pain relieving medicine as necessary. Massage and physiotherapy can also be good options to combine with paraffin baths. It may be useful to consult a specialist before the treatment takes place.

More information about osteoarthritis treatment, with and without surgery, is available here.

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