PrepperMed 101: Hot wax – For Arthritis, Not Vanity. Part I of Prepping for Arthritis

Arthritis, which causes stiffness, pain, and potentially deformity and loss of use of joints, is exceptionally common.  Most aged people have some of it.  So do many younger folks, especially if they’ve had traumatic injury to a joint or have developed an autoimmune disease involving joints.  My own parents both developed it before they turned 60, so it wouldn’t be surprising if it’s in my own fairly near future.  

Despite its being a wide-spread problem, I’ve never seen a whisper about it on prepping sites. I decided to do one.  I’m not a physician, so you shouldn’t treat these as recommendations; but only as informational. As some of this information is a bit outside of my every-day knowledge, I hit up the primary research to check out what I thought to be true.  I haven’t included all the citations, as this didn’t seem to be the place for that, but I’ve included a few at the end for those that are curious or concerned that I just make this stuff up.

Arthritis can leave your hands like this; especially if you don’t take care of it. Thanks to Phoenix119 for the image.*

I started this series with paraffin wax treatment for the unscientific reason that my Dad had very good things to say about it (but research did back Dad up on this one).  It’s also very transferable to prepper types of situations, which the most common treatments of drug therapy are not.

Why paraffin wax treatment?

Based on literature reviews of many published studies, heat therapy using warm wax reduces pain and stiffness in arthritic joints, and perhaps increases grip strength (that finding is not as well supported).  There’s also some evidence that it actually reduces the progression of the disease.

How does it work?

Heat therapy encourages blood vessels in the warm region to open up, allowing more blood flow.  Better yet, it suppresses the inflammation that makes affected joints grow progressively worse.

Here’s what’s needed:

Paraffin wax.  This is available from canning stores.  It can be reused (you lose a little each time) if you wash the hands/feet before use.  Mineral oil.  A big enough pot to hold 4 lb melted was and still submerge the hand/foot.   A candy thermometer.  A plastic bag.  If any of this stuff spoils over time, I’ve never heard of it; so I consider its shelf life to be longer than mine by a long shot.

Paraffin wax. It’s also used at times to air-seal products when canning. Thanks gfhofmann for the image **

Here’s what’s done:

Melt 4 lb paraffin (available from canning stores) in a low-heat way, such as a double boiler or crockpot on low.  If you’re doing it over a fire, have it far enough away to melt slowly.  Stir in a cup of mineral oil.  Let it cool until a thin skin starts to form on top.  Use the candy thermometer to make sure the temp is 125 F – right after stirring well so there isn’t a hot spot in the middle to surprise you.  Submerge the hand/foot.  Don’t touch the side of the pan; it might burn.  Lift the limb above the pot and let it drip until it stops. Dip again, but not quite as high; you don’t want liquid wax to flow between the previous layers and the skin since it may burn.  After 10 or 12 dips, stick the hand/foot in the plastic bag, wrap a towel over the top, and hang out 20 min or so to let the treatment do its work.  Afterwards the wax can be cracked back off into the wax container for re-use. (Methodology based off Web MD’s description)

These commercial paraffin baths are very handy (if there’s electricity)

How often should it be done?

This wasn’t addressed in the studies I read, but based on the fact that it’s  just a fairly gentle heat treatment, I would use it once or twice a day if necessary.  Some sources particularly recommended its use before physical therapy or exercise, as it decreases both the stiffness and the pain that can impair use.  (More on using arthritic joints in a later post…)

What are the drawbacks?

None of the studies I read had anything negative to report in the way of side effects or bad outcomes.  I did supplement the instructions WebMD gave with a couple of additional safety ideas, as the only real risk seems to be getting burned through carelessness.

Want more information? Read Part 2 of the series by CLICKING HERE.

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I read a bunch of studies to draw up this summary.  Here’s a couple of the citations so you know I’m not just making this stuff up:

  1. P. M. Vliet Vlieland; Non-drug care for RA—is the era of evidence-based practice approaching?. Rheumatology (Oxford) 2007; 46 (9): 1397-1404. doi: 10.1093/rheumatology/kem149

Lee C-T, Kokolus KM, Leigh ND, Capitano M, Hylander BL, Repasky EA (2015) Defining Immunological Impact and Therapeutic Benefit of Mild Heating in a Murine Model of Arthritis. PLoS ONE 10(3): e0120327. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0120327

*By User:Phoenix119 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

**By Gmhofmann (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons



  1. Not going to speak for her, but I’m sure she will be glad to do one on osteoporosis.

    There’s a lot of information out there on diseases, but very little about how it relates to prepping and people stuck without easy medical care in a SHTF situation.

    There are a few books like “Where there is no doctor” and what Doom & Bloom publish, but overall it’s a very overlooked area of prepping. That’s one of the main reasons we are concentrating so much on it and why it’s half of our project’s title (the Bandages & You) part.

  2. Good idea, Paranoid Prepper. I’m trying to hit the common ones that have strong management options sans professional medical care, and that one fits the bill. I’ll put it on the ToDo list. By the way, I liked the MAG piece.

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