Heat relieves arthritis pain by stimulating blood flow through dilation of blood vessels and decreasing muscle spasms, according to WebMD. Ice helps reduce swelling by constricting blood vessels.
When treating arthritis pain with heat, using either dry or moist heat should work, explains WebMD. Heating pads, heat patches and warm baths may be helpful. The temperature should not be hot enough to cause a burn.
Ice packs may feel uncomfortable at first but can be very effective in numbing deep pain, notes WebMD. While both heat and cold can provide relief, it is often necessary to experiment with both to find which combination works best for the individual. In some cases, only one or the other provides relief.