Paraffin Bath

by Robert S. Dinsmoor

A form of heat therapy used to treat joint and muscle pain from arthritis. Special tubs are used to warm paraffin wax to temperatures on the order of 120–135 degrees Fahrenheit. The user dips the painful foot, hand, or elbow into the bath multiple times to coat it with the wax, then removes it from the bath. The hot paraffin continues to provide deep, penetrating heat to the affected limb. Some bath kits come with a special mitt and boot to cover the hand and foot and prolong the heating effect. Paraffin bath kits are available at drug stores and through companies that specialize in physical therapy and wellness products.

How beneficial are heat therapy techniques? There have been few well-designed studies of heat therapy for arthritis, and what studies there are have shown that heat therapy does not reduce joint swelling. Rather, it seems to be effective for reducing pain and stiffness and increasing circulation in the short term. Research has shown that paraffin baths used along with hand exercises can provide short-term pain relief for people with rheumatoid arthritis in their hands. There is no evidence of any harmful effects in most people, though heat therapy isn’t a good idea for people with impaired sensation or circulation in their extremities, since these people may not notice if the heat source is too hot and may be burned without realizing it.

Last Reviewed on September 15, 2010

  • Page 1 of 1
  • 1

Robert S. Dinsmoor is a medical writer and editor based in Massachusetts.

Statements and opinions expressed on this Web site are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the publishers or advertisers. The information provided on this Web site should not be construed as medical instruction. Consult appropriate health-care professionals before taking action based on this information.

Editor's Choice

BREAKING NEWS

3D Printed Wrist Splints Developed

IN CHARGE OF YOUR HEALTH

Navigate Nutrition Information

RA AND RELATED CONDITIONS

Raynaud Disease

FEATURED RECIPE

Tomatillo Guacamole

FEATURED DEFINITION

Sciatica

Get the latest news and tips from Arthritis Self-Management Extra, delivered to your inbox twice a month!

Sign Up For Our E-Newsletter

We're on Facebook

Become a Fan