Heating pads are helpful items to have on hand on days when you’re feeling sore or achy. They come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes, some that even encase the afflicted body part. Many of them can be placed on pretty much any body part without hassle. The stomach, legs, neck, arms, shoulder, and back are common areas to place a heating pad. Some pads are even portable enough to take on the go, so you can wear them in the car on your way to work, at the office, or even keep yourself warm in the rink of your kid’s peewee hockey game.
Why buy a heating pad?
By far the most common use for heating pads is pain relief. Heat expands blood vessels, and expanded blood vessels increase blood flow to the warmed area. Thus, applying heat with a heating pad can be an effective, temporary pain relief that doesn’t involve medicine. They’re used for arthritis, menstrual cramps, chronic pain, reducing muscle and joint stiffness, and other similar ailments. A heating pad by itself generally isn’t a cure, but they’re often part of treatments and/or temporary relief. And while there are chemical heating pads you can buy at drugstores, these tend to only be good for one use. Since they’re thrown away after this single-use, you have to keep buying new ones when you run out. Thus a reusable heating pad provides the same level of pain relief while saving you money in the long run.
Heating pads are also great for encouraging relaxation, warming yourself on chilly days, and providing extra heat in bed on frigid nights. If your home isn’t well insulated or if your bedroom or office never seems to heat up as much as you’d like, a heating pad can provide you with some extra warmth and comfort. You may even prefer to use a heating pad to warm yourself at night rather than cranking up the thermostat and running up your heating bill.
What should you look for in a heating pad?
- Size and Shape: Do you need your heating pad to target a specific body part, or do you prefer a heating pad that covers many areas at once? A heating pad meant for your lower back will be quite different from one designed just for your neck. If you experience a lot of back or stomach pain or want to use it to warm your bed, a larger size will likely better suit your needs. If you’re planning to use your heating pad to target smaller areas like your knees or neck, you may want a smaller model. If you’re unsure of what you’re after, opt for a standard heating pad, somewhere 12 to 15 inches in size, with a square or rectangular shape.
- Heat Source: Most heating pads are powered by electricity or gain heat while being microwaved. Electric heating pads are the most common. They either need to be plugged in or are battery-powered. These tend to be the larger-sized option and are great because they maintain their heat for as long as you need, but they aren’t as portable as other sorts. And if corded, you’re limited to sitting or lying in spots where there’s an outlet within range. Microwavable models tend to be smaller and gain their heat from being warmed in the microwave for the given amount of time. These are handy because they’re lightweight and portable, but they do gradually lose their heat. If you plan on using your heating pad for more than 10-15 minutes, odds are good you’ll have to reheat it at least once.
- Features: If you want an infrared heating pad, extra cushioning, a weighted model, or a pocket option for a customized heating pad experience, don’t forget to double-check the features of your heating pad. They’re available with moist or dry heat, or both in some cases; a moist heating pad can be a godsend if you have dry or sensitive skin. Lots of electric ones have several different strength heat settings, or even a customizable temperature setting. If you opt for an electric model, it’s also worth keeping an eye out for one with auto-shutoff and other safety features.
What are the risks of using a heating pad?
Heating pads run the risk of overheating or even burning yourself, your clothing, or your furniture. You’ll want to be careful when using them. If you have diabetes or another condition that makes your skin more sensitive to heat, you’ll have to be especially cautious.
If you plan to use an electric heating pad for sleeping, be sure to buy one that has an automatic shutoff feature so that it doesn’t burn you or your furniture. Even if you don’t intend to use your heating pad overnight, an automatic shutoff feature is still a good choice for electric models. Be sure to use and handle your heating pad with its protective cover if it has one, and don’t leave it directly on your skin for too long. Some shouldn’t ever come into contact with your skin at all; check the instruction or user manual and see if it should be placed over your clothes or if it’s safe to rest directly on your skin. If your heating pad ever starts to feel too hot, turn down the temperature immediately or remove it altogether.
MIGHTY BLISS Extra-Large Electric Heating Pad
This large heating pad offers moist or dry heat relief in three different heat settings.
Pros: This heating pad is larger than average, providing a wider coverage area compared to standard-sized models. It covers body parts like the back and shoulders better than most. It provides moist or dry heat, depending on your preferences or needs. Its auto-shutoff feature provides protection to help save energy. As an extra convenience, this heating pad is machine washable for easy cleaning.
Cons: Even though this heating pad can be washed in the washing machine, it’s not dryer safe. You’ll have to air-dry it, which will take much longer. And while you can use this heating pad with a moist heat setting, it’s not as simple as hitting a button. You’ll have to wet the pad with a wet sponge or a spray bottle before turning it on.
Bottom Line: Measuring 12 by 24 inches, there’s a lot to love about this heating pad. Between its large size, soft and luxurious microplush fibers, quick heating, and easy cleaning, you’ll find yourself wondering what you ever did before buying it.
Sunbeam Heating Pad for Pain Relief
This heating pad offers a controller specifically designed for easy use by those with arthritis.
Pros: This heating pad with an extra-long, 9-foot cord features ultra-heat technology with three heat settings for consistent and improved relief. It comes with a sponge to create moist heat if wanted, and the heating pad cover is machine washable. If the standard 12- by 15-inch size is too large or too small for your needs, there are four other sizing options available for purchase.
Cons: This isn’t the softest heating pad on the market. There’s also no timer or automatic shutoff feature, so you do risk burning the pad, your furniture, your blankets, or yourself if you fall asleep with it on.
Bottom Line: If you or a loved one has arthritis or limited mobility or dexterity in their hands, this heating pad is perfect. The uniquely designed controller with extra-large slide buttons was specifically engineered for people with arthritis so that they can adjust the heat and settings without straining or hurting their hands.
Thermalon Microwave Activated Heating Pad
This microwavable heating pad offers convenient heat therapy without requiring a cord or electric outlet.
Pros: This 9- by 12-inch heating pad made of polyester and spandex is designed to offer fast-acting, natural, nontoxic, and odor-free pain relief through moist heat. The heating pad uses Hydro Pearl technology to provide deep-penetrating, effective pain relief while maintaining even heat distribution. It features a large pocket that you can slip your hands or feet into for all-encompassing heat from every angle. It prevents mold and bacterial growth, avoids the need for wires and water, and can be washed and reused for long-lasting comfort, even while traveling. And it costs less than almost all electric heating pads.
Cons: At 9 by 12 inches, this heating pad is smaller than most. It’ll still heat effectively, but it won’t cover as wide an area. And unlike electric models, this heating pad won’t maintain its heat over time. If it cools down, you’ll have to stick it back in the microwave to reheat it. And moist heating is your only choice.
Bottom Line: If you want a heating pad that is more portable or lightweight than average, consider this microwavable model. It’s equally great for warming the bed at night and relieving pain. Plus, you don’t have to worry about plugging it into an outlet or it overheating and burning your belongings if you fall asleep.
Snailax Heating Pad Wrap for Neck and Shoulders
This soft, unique heating pad is designed for full shoulder and back coverage.
Pros: This heating pad offers several deluxe features, starting with its larger than average size; it should be able to fully cover your shoulders on both sides, your entire back, and your neck all at once. In addition to its heat settings, this pad has four built-in massage motors with five possible vibration settings, so you can get a massage for extra pain relief or relaxation. It has an auto-shutoff feature for safety and a magnetic closure at the neck. Two elastic clips at the waist and back keep it securely attached to your body during use.
Cons: It’s a decent bit more expensive than most heating pads, both electrical and microwaveable ones. It also takes a bit longer to heat up than a lot of other models, and the cover can’t be removed for washing; spot cleaning is your only option.
Bottom Line: If you have chronic neck or back pain, this is the ideal heating pad for your needs. Even though it can be used on other body parts, such as the legs and stomach, it’s designed to fit perfectly to the shape of your neck, shoulders, and back in order to better target those areas.
Sunbeam Heating Pad Back Wrap with Adjustable Strap
This heating pad is designed to provide targeted back pain relief, especially in the lower back region.
Pros: This contoured heated back wrap offers heat therapy by molding to the shape of your back with its adjustable waist wrap, which extends up to 85 inches. Its targeted design increases blood flow and accelerates tissue healing. In addition, it includes four heat settings and a two-hour auto shut-off feature. The 9-foot cord is long enough for you to walk around a bit while wearing it if desired. And the super-soft, micro-mink fabric pad can be washed in the machine.
Cons: While the contoured shape is great for the back, you may have some trouble fitting it to and using it on other parts of your body. And even with the adjustable strap, it may be a bit too small to fasten to some people depending on your size and body type.
Bottom Line: If your back, especially your lower back, is a problem area for you, this contoured heating pad is well worth considering.
Heating pads are a worthwhile investment for pretty much any home. You never know when you or a loved one will need some relief from aches, pains, or stiffness or need extra warmth on a cold night. Our top picks for heating pads will get the job done well.