Hot or cold?

Heat packs and ice packs have been used throughout time to help with different types of body discomfort. However, many people with knee osteoarthritis are unsure whether they should be using it for their knee. This section was created to give you more understanding about the role of these modalities in the management of your condition.


Let’s watch our video with Ali Gibbs, a specialist physiotherapist and knee osteoarthritis researcher, who will discuss the use of hot or cold therapy for the management of knee osteoarthritis.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Not really

Both ice packs and heat packs can provide some temporary relief of symptoms. Ice packs or cooling devices tend to be used after surgery. But anecdotally, most people with knee osteoarthritis prefer heat to ice packs as a long term management symptoms.

It is generally advised to not apply heat or ice for more than 20 minutes, and to wrap it in something first to avoid burns (note its possible to get heat and ice burns!). It is therefore especially important that you don’t fall asleep whilst you have heat or ice packs on your knee.


There is a risk or heat or ice burns, therefore it is important that you:

  1. Have good sensation in the knee before applying the heat  or ice pack
  2. Test the temperature before applying
  3. Wrap the heat or ice pack in something (e.g. clean tea towel)
  4. Avoid placing over uncovered wounds, rashes etc
  5. Do not leave on for longer than 20 minutes
  6. Check with your GP if you have any other co-morbidities

Next – Massage and manual treatments