Heat Retaining Sleeve to Treat Knee Osteoarthritis
Posted Feb 15 2010 6:00am
One of the more common recommendations for treating arthritis is the use of heat. The Arthritis Foundation’s website recommends using heat to relax muscles and stimulate blood circulation. They suggest using dry heat, such as heating pads or heat lamps, or moist heat, such as warm baths or heated wash cloths.
Other options for applying heat without being tethered to an electrical cord or sitting in water include the use of wraps. But is there one type that is better than another?
A team from the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis took a look at the relative benefits of using a special heat-retaining infrared-reflective versus a cotton-based sleeve for treating knee osteoarthritis. In this randomized study, 52 patients with diagnosed osteoarthritis of the knee were divided into 2 groups. One group was were provided with a verum sleeve (specially fabricated to retain body heat) and the other group was given a placebo (cotton) sleeve.
The participants of the study were directed to wear their sleeve for at least 12 hours a day for 4 weeks on the most painful knee. After the 4 week period their pain level was measured using the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis (WOMAC) Index. The group using the verum sleeve reported a 16% decrease in pain while the control group reported a 9.7% decrease. The difference between the groups was not considered statistically significant.
Additionally, 12 of the participants who believed correctly that they had the verum sleeve reported a significantly higher (27%) decrease in pain. Comparatively, the participants that received the verum sleeve but believed they had received the placebo reported only a marginally significant (13%) improvement in pain.
The team, led by Dr. Steven Mazzuca, concluded that “this pilot study was insufficiently powered to be a definitive trial of the heat-retaining sleeve. Given the magnitude of changes in knee pain in the active treatment group, heat retention merits further scientific investigation as a treatment modality for patients with knee OA.”