A study presented at the the 24th annual scientific meeting of the American Pain Society in Boston found that heat wraps gave more relief to people with arthritic knee pain than over-the-counter drugs .
The findings come in the wake of revelations about the dangers of popular anti-inflammatory arthritis drugs, including Vioxx and Celebrex.
"This is not a product you are going to get a stroke from," said Dr. Bill McCarberg, the study's lead author and a nationally recognized pain expert.
"People are worried about taking drugs. They want alternatives that are safe," McCarberg added.
The three-day study included 110 men and women with osteoarthritis of the knee.
"All had about the same amount of pain," McCarberg said.
The participants were divided into four groups.
They were either given Tylenol, which contains acetaminophen, or ibuprofen, or they wore a wrap with no heat or a ThermaCare Heat Wrap for eight hours a day.
Those who wore the heat wrap had significant benefits in pain reduction and more flexibility compared to the others, the researchers found.
The findings were published in this month's Journal of Pain.