The use of heat therapy as pain relief dates back to 500BC when the ancient Greeks and Egyptians used the sun to help treat illnesses.
Throughout the years, hot stones, springs, thermal baths and volcanic hot air caverns were all used to cope with pain. That’s because, according to LiveStrong.com:
Applying heat to your tissues increases your blood flow and causes your connective tissue to become more flexible.
A thermal bath each day isn’t really practical (sadly!), however luckily there are plenty of readily available heat pad products that you can enjoy in your own home. We’ve taken a look at the market and handpicked a selection of some of the best heat pads available today.
The Hot List: Our Top 10 Heating Pads
Before using any type of heat pad, you should always read the instruction manual. If you are unsure of its suitability it’s best to speak to a medical professional to ensure it is appropriate for your health or medical conditions.
Sunbeam King Size XpressHeat Heating Pad
If you’re looking for a large heat pad to cover a wide area rather than a small, localised area of pain, then we like the Sunbeam King Size XpressHeat Heating Pad. It comes with 6 different heat settings and promises to be hot within 30 seconds of powering up.
The Sunbeam King Size XpressHeat Heating Pad is reasonably priced and with an adjustable auto-off feature it allows you to tailor the length of your therapy between 2 hours and a continuous on. Plus the heat pad is super soft due to an integrated microplush cover!
Reviewers rave about the heat the pad can reach, and use them on a daily basis, so much so that some have found that the product can have a short shelf life. Luckily the company seem to be great at dealing with any technical issues to get your heat pad back in action.
It may seem like a little thing, but many users also commented on the length of the power cord being a selling point, so if you want a heat pad that reaches your favourite comfortable chair, then this is a really good, affordable choice.
Thermophore MaxHeat Deep-Heat Therapy
We’re impressed with the Thermophore MaxHeat Deep-Heat Therapy heat pad due to the size, 14″ x 27″. It’s the largest size that Thermophore do and is big enough to cover the entire spine, not just one small, isolated area.
Previous models have required you to hold the switch down in order to the get the pad to heat, however this version has a “set and forget” feature, allowing you to switch on the heat and then sit back and relax.
Some reviewers commented that the pad can get too hot, however for others it provided the exactly the level of heat that they were looking for, a level that other pads can’t provide.
Those suffering from arthritis favoured this pad over others due to the size and its ability to offer relief across a number of different areas.
Also for deeper heat penetration, the Thermophore MaxHeat Deep-Heat Therapy heat pad generates moist heat which can be easily delivered through the special moisture absorbing cover.
Therasage Heating Pad, Medium
If you’re looking for something a little more ‘natural’, then the Therasage Heating Pad offers infrared heat as well as natural jade. The infrared heat penetrates deep in to your body, as much as 2 to 3 inches below the skin rather than just heating the surface like electric heat pads.
For daily assistance with stress and depression, the pad delivers negative ions to the skin which are believed to increase your daytime energy levels as well as bring about a sense of calm and relaxation.
Though much pricier than other options, reviewers felt it was certainly worth parting with your dollars for due to the level of heat it can deliver. They just wish the auto switch off was a little longer than 90 minutes, due to the level of relief from pain they can enjoy during this time.
When you need a heat pad that can travel with you then the PureRelief XL offers an extra-large 12″ x 24″ heat surface that can be folded easily in to a convenient storage bag, so you can treat sore muscles in your back, abdomen and shoulders whilst on holiday or simply away from home.
It has 6 temperature settings and a thick cover, both of which make it a popular, affordable option for daily use too, a good alternative to some of slightly pricier options.
Users have commented that the heat pad doesn’t retain its heat, however if you’re looking for something that you can pack away quickly and easily then this can be a benefit.
Also when compared to other heat pads, the design and stylish color make it a good option if you’re looking for something a little more contemporary and discreet.
Happy Wraps Herbal Neck Wrap (with Free Lavender Eye Pillow and Free Sleep Mask)
For neck pain and stress relief, we like the Happy Wraps Herbal Neck Wrap due to the low price tag and luxurious material that gives your neck a little hug whilst you carry on with daily life. The price also includes a free eye pillow and sleep mask!
The neck wrap is filled with a blend of herbs and organic flax seeds, which can be heated in the microwave or chilled in the freezer if you want cold therapy.
Some users felt the heat doesn’t last long enough, however with just 1 minute in the microwave it can be reheated quickly and many commented how wonderful it smells!
Thermophore Heating Pad, Petite
For small areas of pain, we’re big fans of the Thermophore Heating Pad, Petite. It’s just 4″ x 17″ in size and designed for the neck and TMJ area, and other small areas that require focussed heat.
Many report a departure from the strong heat produced by the original Thermophore product range, however this new model offers improved control, with the panel housing a button to press for heat, that you simply release to cool and can alternate on and off as frequently as you like.
It also has a great safety feature in case you fall asleep with the pad on.
The Thermophore Heating Pad, Petite is ideal for those suffering from sinus pain due to the small size and many reviewers suffering from RSD also reported great results.
PureRelief Neck and Shoulder Heating Pad
We love the design of the PureRelief Neck and Shoulder Heating Pad, which is contoured to drape around your neck and shoulders comfortably. It heats up quickly, providing fast pain relief to sore and aching muscles.
The LED controller provides four different heat options from warm to high based on the level of comfort that you require, and has a contemporary design making it ideal to wear in the office.
Some users felt that the Neck and Shoulder Heating Pad doesn’t heat evenly, however the level of heat provided satisfied many, especially those suffering from whiplash.
UTK Infrared Heat Therapy Healing Jade Mat
Many heat pads are not designed for you to lie on them and for some pain that’s exactly what you need, so that’s why we love the UTK Infrared Heat Therapy Healing Jade Mat which can be laid on as well as sat on, and is flexible enough to be wrapped around parts of your body.
Another great feature of the mat is the memory function, making it ideal for quick daily use. Some found the control pad a little more complex than other heat pads, however if the memory function is what you’re looking for then it may be worth the compromise.
The UTK Infrared Heat Therapy Healing Jade Mat is available in different shapes and sizes, and though a little pricier than other options, many users felt that it was worth the money.
Qfiber Body Wrap – Portable USB Powered Heat Wrap
The Qfiber Body Wrap – Portable USB Powered Heat Wrap is ideal for in the car, the office or simply on the go as the heat is provided when the pad is plugged in to a USB port. Reviewers reported regularly using it on the daily commute!
The Qfiber fabric that covers the heat pad spreads therapeutic heat all around the treatment area and expands up to a 42 inch waist with extender straps.
Many users felt the portable element wasn’t exactly accurate, as you still require a USB port to use the heat wrap which doesn’t make it as practical as they’d like. However by picking up a cheap portable mobile phone charger, other users felt there was an easy way around it.
Portable Electric Hot Water Bottle
Sometimes you just need a lovely hot water bottle for the pain, which is why we love this concept. You simply recharge it in 15 minutes and it offers warmth that lasts between 2 and 6 hours whilst you’re on the go!
It was designed for those who work or play in the outdoors for long hours and heats water from 140 to 158 degrees Fahrenheit and comes with a safety feature to ensure it doesn’t overheat.
Reviewers commented that the Portable Electric Hot Water Bottle was very heavy and sometimes didn’t get as hot as they’d like, however with such a fast recharge time it’s a fantastic option for when you’re on the go.
Those suffering from menstrual cramps particularly reported success with the product.
Types of Heating Pads
There are a number of different types of heat pad available, whether you’re looking for one for a key part of your body, an option for when you’re out and about or a specific heating method to target a certain kind of pain.
For Different Parts of the Body:
Neck / Back / Shoulders
There are a number of heating pads available targeting neck and shoulder pain. These tend to be contoured to your neck and designed to drape around your shoulders or hug your neck.
Back and Spine
XL Heating Pads are available to help treat back pain when you require full coverage along your spine or across your lower back. Smaller pads are also available if you want to target a key area that is causing you pain.
Knee support heat pads are also available if you want to target heat around your knee.
With Different Heating Methods:
Infrared heat pad claim to deliver deeper and more penetrated heat than traditional electric heating methods, as they don’t just heat the surface of the skin.
Heat pads that are heated in the microwave, generally filled with wheat and natural remedies such as lavender, are often a more affordable option.
Non-Electric Heating Pads
Such as Snappy Heat Pads (link to Amazon listing), which require no charge, you simply snap the metal plate which then generates heat, are ideal for travelling.
For When You’re Out and About:
Travel Heating Pad
Normally supplied with a handy storage bag, a travel heat pad can be folded away easily.
USB Heating Pad
Though not considered a strong option due to the temperatures they reach and the poor quality materials they tend to be made from, USB heating pads offer an alternative to carrying a bulky heat pad with power cord when travelling.
Cordless/Rechargable Heating Pad
Not just for out and about, but also at home if you want to sit somewhere but don’t have access to a plug, a cordless/rechargeable heating plan can offer just the solution.
Features of Heating Pads – What to Consider
Choosing the heat pad that is right for you can be tricky with so many different options available. See below some of the many different features on offer so you can work out exactly what product you’re looking for:
Auto Shut Off
Any product that you use in your home that heats up is obviously a danger if you forget to turn it off, or if you simply fall asleep using it.
See what auto shut off function the heat pad offers, if any, and the length of time it will stay on before automatically switching off.
Consider as well if a short auto shut off may frustrate you if you’re looking to use a heat pad for a consistent period of time.
Different heat pads offer different timer functions, giving you the ability to easily control how long your heat therapy lasts.
Size of Pad
Depending on the size of the area you want to treat there are a number of different sizes of pads available. Smaller pads for targeted pain relief and larger pads for treating wider areas such as the spine.
Number of Heat Settings
Each pad will boast a number of different heat settings, so check out the one you want before committing. Memory functions are available on some pads so they can remember the heat settings you use regularly.
Heat up Time
If you’re looking for a heat pad that you can use quickly in a morning then heat up time may be important to you. There are some that can heat up in seconds and others that will take a little longer.
Different fabrics are used on the cover of the heat pad to distribute the heat effectively so it’s worth doing a little research before purchasing.
Length of Power Cord
Some heat pads boast about a longer power cord which may not seem a major consideration, however if there’s a location you’ll want to use your pad regularly consider if there’s a plug socket available close by.
Again, if a long power cord isn’t going to quite reach or if you want to use your heat pad on the go then a wireless capability could be desirable.
Considering the temperature that the pad can reach to ensure that it satisfies you and the level of heat you’re looking for.
The method use to heat, whether it’s electric, infrared, microwave or some other form of non-electric heat. Consider what is right for your condition.
Who Benefits from Heat Therapy?
Heat therapy is used to treat a number of different conditions:
Studies have shown that heat therapy can give arthritis sufferers some relief from their pain. Particularly with those suffering from arthritis in the hands, heat therapy was found to have short term benefits when used daily. However for certain forms of arthritis it can have a negative effect so it is worth checking with your doctor before you try any form of heat therapy.
As fibromyalgia pain isn’t caused by inflammation, heat therapy is the perfect option for symptom relief, helping to relax tender muscles within the body and improve flexibility. Here are a number of different ways you can apply heat to your joints.
Heat therapy or heat pads are useful in the treatment of muscle spasms. However professionals advise waiting at least 72 hours after spasms start to allow inflammation to go down. Moist heat is also recommended over dry heat due to the risks of dehydration.
The American Cancer Society suggests heat therapy as a non-medical treatment method to help stimulate the skin and offer relief from day to day pain. However it isn’t recommended for those undergoing radiation treatment.
Lower Back Pain
The American College of Physicians recommend heat therapy as a treatment for lower back pain as in recent studies it has been shown to offer daily relief from pain.
- Bierman, W. (1942) The History Of Fever Therapy In The Treatment Of Disease. [Online] Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1933808/pdf/bullnyacadmed00550-0069.pdf [Accessed 10 August 2017]. ↩