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A Warm Compress for Pain

Cathy is taking care of Miss Arnold this morning. Miss Arnold has several health problems, including arthritis and osteoporosis. Today Miss Arnold says, “Cathy, my shoulders are so tight. Could you put a warm compress on them?”

A warm compress is a washcloth or pad of gauze soaked in warm water. The warmth of the compress will feel good on Miss Arnold’s shoulders and help relieve her pain. Even though Miss Arnold has had warm compresses before, Cathy checks her care plan to make sure that it is still acceptable to use a warm compress for Miss Arnold’s pain. The care plan explains the temperature the compress should be and the length of time it should stay on her skin.

“Sure, Miss Arnold. I’ll get the compress ready for you,” Cathy says.

Cathy returns with a wash basin of warm water, a thermometer, a washcloth, and a towel. She has tested the temperature of the water, but she tests it again in the room. She wants to make sure the water is 100-105°F and no warmer. Miss Arnold gets comfortable in her chair and exposes her right shoulder for the treatment. Cathy puts a washcloth into the water, wrings it out to get rid of the extra water, and applies it to Miss Arnold’s shoulder, pressing it lightly onto the skin. When excess water starts to drip down, Cathy wipes the water up quickly with a towel so that Miss Arnold’s clothes do not get wet.

Cathy checks Miss Arnold’s skin every five minutes to make sure the skin isn’t red. After twenty minutes, Cathy wets the compress again with warm water and applies it to the other shoulder. Then she dries Miss Arnold’s skin with a towel.

“Thank you! That felt so good!” Miss Arnold says.

Cathy answers, “You’re welcome. I’m glad your shoulders feel better now.” Cathy gathers her supplies and leaves Miss Arnold to rest. She records information about the compresses in her notes.

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© 2015 by Southwest Adult Basic Education

Project made financially possible through grants from:

Southwest Initiative Foundation, Marshall Community Foundation, Southwest Regional Transition Partners, Southwest Adult Basic Education, Marshall Healthcare Partners