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Being in pain is perhaps one of the most devastating conditions because, for a lot of people, there is no getting away from it.
The pain can disrupt your daily life and prevent you from doing the things you love. But it doesn’t always need to be so debilitating; a heating pad is an effective way to reduce pain and have more freedom to get on with your life.
Heating Pads Comparison Chart
Heating Pad for Back and Shoulder (24"x33)
PureRelief Deluxe Foot Heating Pad
Sunbeam Neck & Shoulder Heating Pad
MIGHTY BLISS Large Electric Heating Pad
HealthyLine Far Infrared Heating Pad
Sunbeam Heated Mattress Pad
Heat Pad Dimensions
24" x 33"
12.5" x 13"
22" x 19"
12" x 24"
72" x 24"
Twin, full, queen, king
Up to 120 °F
Type of Heat
Auto Switch Off?
Best Suited for?
Back, shoulder & neck
Neck & shoulders
Shoulders, legs, back, arms, neck
Neck, shoulders, back, legs, arms
What is a Heating Pad?
A heating pad is a soft, electric device that warms up and can be used to manage pain. The heating pad can be applied to an area on the body where the pain is present, and the warmth will radiate into the muscles, relieving pain and discomfort.
While these devices are typically very effective at managing pain, they should only be used once any inflammation has subsided. When applied to a new injury, the heat can have a negative effect and may cause further inflammation. For this reason, it is best to wait 72 hours before using them on an injury.
Benefits of Using a Heating Pad
There are many reasons that using a heating pad can be beneficial. Thermotherapy is something that has been used by humans for thousands of years. When we look back to how the ancient Greeks and Egyptians managed pain, there is a lot of evidence that heat therapy was highly favored. These communities would often use the sun’s heat as well as thermal baths and heated mud, all in the name of soothing aching muscles and relieving pain.
In modern times, scientists have conducted a lot of research into the benefits of thermotherapy and the results are promising. This evidence shows that when the heat is applied, there is a significant reduction in the level of pain, particularly when compared to other types of therapy.
This means that people all over the world could reap the benefits of heating pads and their use could be applied to many conditions. For example, those suffering from lower back pain may find heat therapy to be particularly useful. In this instance, the circulation is boosted meaning that nutrients and oxygen are better able to travel to these areas, thus improving the condition. Furthermore, when circulation is improved, fewer pain signals are sent to the brain.
Back pain is typically a temporary condition and many people will struggle with it at one point in their lives. However, there are those with ongoing painful conditions such as arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions. Since there is no solid cure for these, often degenerative conditions, sufferers need an effective way to manage their pain.
In these cases, heat therapy can be very useful since it has the ability to loosen stiff muscles and joints, bringing some relief to the condition. This is also particularly effective for sufferers of conditions like fibromyalgia and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), both of which benefit from the boost in circulation.
As we mentioned earlier, new injuries should not be treated with heat since this can increase inflammation. If you have a new injury then a cold treatment will have a better effect and reduce swelling.
Types of Heating Pads
One of the greatest things about heating pads is that there is a diverse range of options to choose from. Each type of heating pad has its benefits and understanding how each of them works can help you to choose which is right for you.
Electric Heating Pad
An electric heating pad is one of the most common and convenient types. The pad can be directly plugged into the mains power and feature an internal element, which when fully heated, radiates dry heat from the pad.
These are very effective if you wish to draw any moisture out of the skin, however, this makes them unsuitable for people with sensitive skin as this increased dryness may cause irritation.
Many electric heating pads come with a timer which is an excellent feature to help prevent overuse. If this occurs, there is a risk of burning, particularly if you fall asleep when using the pad.
Infrared Heating Pad
While an electric heating pad can only penetrate the muscles to a certain degree, an infrared heating pad will often provide much deeper and more intense therapy. For this reason, they are particularly effective at managing ongoing pain as the benefits continue even after the heating pad has been switched off.
You could compare the heat that comes from infrared heating to that of the sun. This typically makes them much safer than an electric heating pad because of the lack of radiation. This can be particularly helpful for elderly users who may not have the sensation to feel when the pad becomes too hot.
Not only this, but infrared heating pads provide much more even and gentle heat which gives excellent and longer-lasting results. They are able to deliver heat without raising your body temperature and maintaining a healthy balance meaning that they are generally considered to be much safer.
Microwavable Heating Pad
For convenience and ease of use, there are some heating pads that can be warmed in the microwave. They are normally filled with grains and made with a thick outer covering making them much heavier than other types of heating pad. This is great if you want to apply a little more pressure to the area.
Once heated, these pads will provide a consistent and soothing level of heat. However, because this heat is not constantly maintained, you may find that they lose warmth quickly.
A microwavable heating pad is normally very effective for things like lower back pain and neck pain.
Moist Heating Pad
One of the best things about a moist heating pad compared to dry heat is that they have a much greater capability to penetrate deeper into the tissues which can boost healing. In addition to this, they will also feel nicer and much more comforting than dry heat.
However, much like anything, moist heating pads do have their downsides. They are typically more complicated to use and require a lot of towels to prevent burns. There is a higher risk of becoming burned with these heating pads especially if the patient has decreased sensation.
How to Choose a Heating Pad?
Understanding which type of heating pad would work best for you is one thing, but there are several other aspects that you need to consider.
Different injuries and conditions may require a variety of heat settings. If you are purchasing a heating pad for general use, it may be more advantageous to find one with multiple heat settings that can be used to target any condition or injury you may sustain.
Conversely, if you have a specific condition that needs therapy, you may require only one setting. Typically, you would have a choice between low, medium, and high settings. Furthermore, some heating pads come with the option to set a timer which is excellent if you want to avoid burning.
Heating Pad Size
If you only have a very small area that needs treating then you may not need a large heating pad. What’s more, something compact may be great for people who travel a lot and need relief on the go. However, if your pain is more widespread, then something a little bigger might be preferable.
The range of heating pads available is nothing if not diverse and you will find that there are those that are specifically designed to treat certain parts of the body. For example, you may decide to purchase a neck heating pad or a lumbar pad. There are also those designed for use on the legs, feet, shoulders, and many other areas of the body.
If you are in pain, the last thing you want is to be waiting around for the heating pad to be warm enough to use. The faster it heats up, the more quickly you can receive pain relief.
Sourcing a heating pad that has a timer is one of the most important safety features. This means that the pad will not overheat and cause burns. If you have reduced sensation or believe that there is a chance you may fall asleep while using the pad, this is even more crucial.
When the timer ends, the device should automatically switch off. This feature is also excellent if you are going to be using higher levels of heat and typically, the timer can be set from anywhere between fifteen minutes and two hours, giving you plenty of options.
Power Cord Length
If you do not have somewhere that you can sit or lie down while the heating pad is in use, this can be hugely inconvenient. Short of moving your furniture to accommodate using the pad, it is a good idea to find one that has a lengthy power cord so that you are not limited as to where you can use it.
What’s more, some heating pads are cordless and come with a rechargeable battery. This can be very useful for people who are bed-bound and have no access to power but will also eliminate a tripping hazard often caused by cables.
Dry or Moist Heat
We have discussed the benefits of both dry and moist heat but it is important to compare these to your unique needs. If you have sensitive skin then dry heat may cause irritation so using moist heat is typically considered to be more suitable.
In addition to this, you should think about how deeply you need to penetrate with the heat. Moist heat has greater penetration abilities and is better for deep pain whereas dry heat is better for treating superficial pain.
Ease of Use
For people who struggle with arthritis, this can affect their dexterity and this means that the controller must be easy to use. For this reason, a sliding controller may be better. However, for more precise control, there are those with a digital controller.
Furthermore, the settings should be easy to understand and when setting the heat level and timer, there should be no complicated processes.
Best Heating Pads for Sore Muscles & Pain Relief
There are a huge number of heating pads on the market and choosing between them can feel as though you are looking for a needle in a haystack. We have reviewed some of the best heating pads out there, and we believe that the following deserved a special mention.
1. Heating Pad for Back and Shoulder (24″x33)
For anyone who suffers from back pain in several areas, this extra-large heating pad will help to target all of these. It is worn on the back and fits over the shoulders, secured with a tie belt around the waist. One of the obvious benefits of this is that you can be in an upright position.
For safe use, the heating pad features a timer with three settings as well as a choice of six heat settings. However, the temperature between these settings is minimal meaning that you are able to get a very accurate degree of heat suitable for your problems. Once the timer runs out, the heating pad will automatically shut off.
While the heating pad needs to be plugged in while operational, it does come with a 9 ft. long power cord. This means you won’t have to worry about having to stay too close to a power outlet. What’s more, the pad is surrounded by a soft and protective fabric that is machine washable.
- Dimensions: 24″ x 33″
- Heat settings: 6
- Type of heat: dry
- Auto switch off?: yes
- Best suited for: back, shoulder & neck
2. PureRelief Deluxe Foot Heating Pad
Pain in the feet can prevent you from going about your day-to-day activities but this foot heating pad can provide comforting relief. The user slides the feet into the plush, comfortable material and the pad is large enough to accommodate most adult feet sizes.
With a drawstring closure, the heating pad is secure and comfortable. Furthermore, the fabric is machine washable. The controller attaches with a cord so this needs to be removed prior to washing but the pad itself is cordless.
The foot heating pad comes with a choice of four heat settings ranging from warm to high and also features a handy two-hour timer to prevent burning and conserve energy.
- Dimensions: 12.5″ x 13″
- Heat settings: 4
- Type of heat: Dry
- Auto switch off?: Yes
- Best suited for: feet
3. Sunbeam Neck & Shoulder Heating Pad
This is an incredibly lightweight heating pad that is perfectly contoured to fit the neck and shoulders comfortably. It features a larger-than-average collar so that the heat therapy can radiate as far up as possible while also providing a snug fit.
Running at 75 watts, this is a powerful yet safe heating pad with a choice of four heat settings. It is corded but features a long 9ft power cord giving you more options as to where you use it. Although the controller is attached using a wire it can be removed, and cleaned in the washing machine.
One of the most stand-out features of this heating pad is that you can choose whether to use dry or moist heat making it extremely diverse. There is a two-hour shut-off timer for safe and energy-efficient use.
- Dimensions: 22″ x 19″
- Heat settings: 4
- Type of heat: moist, dry
- Auto switch off?: yes
- Best suited for: neck & shoulders
4. MIGHTY BLISS Large Electric Heating Pad
This is a very large heating pad that can be used on various areas of the body; from cramps to stiffness and everything in between, this is a very versatile heating pad. If you require quick relief from pain, this may be a good choice since it heats up in seconds and delivers heat in a way that you choose. There are three heat settings; low, medium, and high and you have the choice to switch to dry heat, should you wish.
The microfiber material is soft and luxurious which makes this a very comfortable heating pad. It can be machine washed and features a long power cord which means that using it wherever is comfortable won’t be an issue.
- Dimensions: 12″ x 24″
- Heat settings: 3
- Type of heat: moist, dry
- Auto switch off?: yes
- Best suited for: shoulders, legs, back, arms, neck
5. HealthyLine Far Infrared Heating Pad
For people who require intense heat therapy on a larger scale, this huge, full-body infrared heating pad may be the answer to your dilemma. In a mat-like style, the heating pad can be used to lie on which is excellent if you suffer from all-over back pain. Once you are finished, the heating pad conveniently rolls up for easy storage.
The heating pad boasts hot stone therapy using jade and tourmaline. This proven therapy is excellent for delivering temporary pain relief. It also features ion technology which can help to improve lung function and breathing.
The LED controller is easy to use and the mat features a 12-hour shut-off for safe use. Furthermore, there is a choice of temperature and time settings allowing you to tailor the experience to your needs.
- Dimensions: 72″ x 24″
- Heat settings: up to 120 °F
- Type of heat: infrared
- Auto switch off?: yes
- Best suited for: full body
6. Sunbeam Heated Mattress Pad
For some of the most intense pain relief, this heated mattress has a variety of settings. There are choices of size from single to king and the larger sizes have dual controls on either side that can benefit two users.
The mattress has a choice of ten heat settings and features a ten-hour automatic shut off meaning that you can fall asleep using the mattress and not have to worry about overheating or wasting energy through the night. What’s more, the easy-to-use controller allows you to adjust the settings and there is even an option to lower the temperature in the night to keep you comfortable.
The mattress is machine washable and made from a soft and comfortable polyester fabric that won’t interfere with the overall comfort of your bed.
- Dimensions: twin, full, queen, king
- Heat settings: 10
- Type of heat: dry
- Auto switch off?: yes
- Best suited for: neck, shoulders, back, legs, arms