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.
Today there are plenty of readily available heat pad products that you can enjoy in your own home.
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In this article:
Heating Pad Reviews
To help you choose the one that’s right for you, we’ve shortlisted 15 of the best heating pads on the market right now:
How We Review & Rate
Here at The Good Body we’ve spent years rating and reviewing health products, including heating pads.
In this article we’ve shortlisted 15 of the best products on the market, highlighting key features so you can make the right decision for you.
To come to an accurate rating we consider a number of different factors, including versatility, variety of heat settings, portability and size. We also take into consideration customer feedback based on reviews from various websites.
Taking all this information, plus our knowledge of the industry, allows us to come up with a rating that gives you the best overall view of the product.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the products out there, then we’ve put together a Heating Pads buying guide below.
We’ve explained each of the functions and features you can consider to find the right product for your needs.
Types of Heating Pads
There are a number of different types of heat pad available. Below we’ve described the various features to help you choose the one that’s right for you.
For Different Parts of the Body
Neck / Back / Shoulders
Across the marketplace there are a variety 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 back coverage. Smaller pads can be more effective if you want to target a key area of your spine that is causing you pain.
Knee support heat pads are also available if you want to delivered targeted heat to your knee.
With Different Heating Methods
Electric pads heat the surface of the skin and can reach high temperatures. They work when connected to the mains, though rechargeable devices are available.
Infrared heat pads deliver deeper and more penetrated heat than traditional electric heating methods, as they don’t just heat the surface of the skin.
Moist heat pads, like infrared, can penetrate deeper into the skin and increase tissue elasticity.
They are often used when skin dehydration is a concern, for example in patients with dry or aging skin.
Some heating pads can be used moist or dry, so this could be a feature worth considering.
Pads that are heated in the microwave, are generally filled with wheat and natural remedies such as lavender. They are often a more affordable option.
Non-Electric Heating Pads
Non-electric options such as Snappy Heat Pads require no charge, you simply snap the metal disc which then generates the heat. They are ideal options for traveling.
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 traveling.
Cordless/Rechargable Heating Pad
Not just for out and about, a cordless / rechargeable heating pad can also be great for at home if you want to sit somewhere but don’t have access to a plug.
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 and 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.
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 offers a number of heat settings. More options will give you greater flexibility over your treatment.
Memory functions are available on some pads so they can remember the heat settings you use regularly. This is useful if you struggle to get to the source of your pain.
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 pads 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 offer 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.
Check out the highest temperature the pad can reach to make sure it’s going to satisfy your needs.
The method used to heat, whether it’s electric, infrared, microwave or some other form of non-electric heat. Consider what is right for your condition.
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.
How does a heating pad work?
In general terms a heating pad works by heating the surface of the skin which stimulates your sensory receptors, blocking the pain signals that are being sent to the brain.
The heat also makes your muscle tissue more elastic which releases tension, increasing your blood flow which brings more nutrients to your painful regions.
Are infrared heat pads better than electric heat pads?
Electric heat pads heat the surface of the skin and do penetrate it to an inch or just over, however infrared pads penetrate it deeper right to the bone and help increase your circulation to encourage your injury to heal faster.
It depends on the type of pain you have as to which is most appropriate for you.
How hot does a heating pad get?
Heating pads vary depending on the style of pad and brand that you go for. However dry heat pads tend to range between 140°F and 160°F with the hottest pads in the range getting up to 175°F.
Moist heating pads can reach higher temperatures, up to 180°F, as they are normally used by trained professionals, however there are options you can buy to use in the home.
Is a heating pad good for back pain?
Yes heating pads are recommended for back pain, however of course you should check with your doctor to see if it’s the right course of treatment for you.
Heat therapy can relax the tension in the back that is causing the pain and block the pain signals to the brain, providing partial relief from the discomfort.
Is a heating pad good for menstrual cramps?
Yes, heating pads are used regularly by those suffering from menstrual cramps, as the heat can help to relax the muscle contractions that cause the cramps providing instant relief.
Is a heating pad good for arthritis?
Yes and no. For certain forms of arthritis a heat pad is perfect as it relaxes the muscles, particularly for those suffering from arthritis in the hands.
However for other forms it can have an inflammatory effect so you should certainly check with your doctor or medical professional before starting any treatment.
Is a heating pad good for sciatica?
Yes, a heating pad can help relax the muscles that are pressing on the sciatic nerve, offering short term relief from the pain.
Are heating pads safe to use during pregnancy?
Opinions are quite contradictory when it comes to using a heat pad during pregnancy.
In early stages many professionals advise against it, however in the second and third trimesters heat pads that reach a moderate temperature are advised for treatment of pain, as long as they’re only used for a short period of time.
To be sure speak to your doctor before trying any form of heat treatment.
Will a heat pad reduce swelling?
No, Dr Jan Sambrook indicates that a heat pad will not reduce swelling. Where swelling occurs it’s because the muscle tissue is bleeding and by applying heat you’re bringing more blood to the area.
Can you sleep on a heating pad?
No. Applying heat to your skin for that period of time can cause you to burn your skin, there is also the risk that the heat pad could catch fire, with the CPSC reporting that approximately 8 people die every year from fires caused by heat pads.
Who is a heat pad not suitable for?
From looking at the advice of various manufacturers and professional bodies, below is an example of some conditions and situations where a heating pad is said to not be suitable.
However this isn’t a comprehensive list (nor does it constitute medical advice) so it is important to always check with a medical professional before beginning treatment.
- Do not use on any parts of the body that are swollen, injured or inflamed
- Do not use on a child under the age of 8
- Do not use if you are not sensitive to heat
- Do not use if you may not be able to react to over-heating (e.g. diabetics, persons with skin changes related to illness or persons with scarred skin in the area where the pad is to be applied)
- Do not use when under the influence of drugs or alcohol
How much do heating pads cost?
Heating pads vary hugely in cost, from just a few dollars for a disposable heat pad, right up to a high end product that could be as much as $1500. Most heat pads on average, seem to sit around the $50 to $200 mark.
Where can I buy a heating pad?
Heating pads can be bought online from a range of different retailers.
For the widest range, you’ll want to take a look on Amazon or online at Walmart. They both have an extensive collection, at a mix of different prices. You can also read plenty of first-hand reviews which can be useful.
https://go.skimresources.com/?id=58744X1365399&xs=1&url=https://www.cvs.com/search/N-0?pt=product&searchTerm=heating+pad is another option, plus Walgreens regularly run offers. If you want to buy a heating pad locally, visit your nearest pharmacy.
So heat looks like a great option for many different conditions, and with such a variety of products to select from, what are you waiting for!
- Ingraham, P. (2020). Heat for Pain and Rehab [Online]. http://PainScience.com. Available from: https://www.painscience.com/articles/heating.php [Accessed 13 October 2021]. ↩
- Ingraham, P. (see footnote 1) ↩
- Landau, M. (2020). 10 Home Remedies to Relieve Menstrual Cramps [Online]. Everyday Health. Available from: https://www.everydayhealth.com/treatment/womens-health/ways-to-relieve-period-cramps/ [Accessed 13 October 2021]. ↩
- Kambach, B. (2015). Applying Heat vs. Cold to an Arthritic Joint [Online]. Arthritis Health. Available from: https://www.arthritis-health.com/treatment/alternative-treatments/applying-heat-vs-cold-arthritic-joint [Accessed 13 October 2021]. ↩
- Kambach, B. (see footnote 4) ↩
- Funiciello, M. (2019). How to Apply Heat Therapy for Your Sciatica Symptoms [Online]. Spine Health. Available from: https://www.spine-health.com/blog/how-apply-heat-therapy-your-sciatica-symptoms [Accessed 13 October 2021]. ↩
- King, T. (2021). Is it safe to use a heating pad for sore muscles during pregnancy? [Online]. Baby Center. Available from: https://www.babycenter.com/pregnancy/health-and-safety/is-it-safe-to-use-a-heating-pad-for-sore-muscles-during-preg_1245286 [Accessed 13 October 2021]. ↩
- Sambrook, J. (2016). Heat and Ice Treatment for Pain [Online]. Patient. Available from: https://patient.info/treatment-medication/painkillers/heat-and-ice-treatment-for-pain [Accessed 13 October 2021]. ↩