Heat can be very therapeutic. You know how good it feels to sit in front of a nice warm sunny window on a chilly autumn day. 🙂 The traditional heating pad is quite a simple concept that has been around for ages. But heating pads aren’t just for old people!
Heating pads are used for warming of parts of the body in order to increase circulation, reduce pain, soothe aching muscles, relieve cramps, warm cold feet, and help with sleep on freezing nights. Heating pads are amazing for muscles and backs that are sore from working out, tense from stress, a kinked neck from sleeping crooked, pain from injuries, or any other discomfort that be treated with heat.
The warmth of a heating pad can also soothe a stomach ache or ease the pain from a urinary tract infection. In these cases, apply a heating pad to the abdomen. Localized application of heat causes the blood vessels in that area to dilate, enhancing blood flow to the targeted tissue to aid in healing.
Moreover, when you’re sitting at your desk on a cold day, a heating pad placed on your feet can warm you up without having to waste energy heating the whole room. It’s like having your own personal heat source, without the dangers of a space heater. Heating pads can also serve as car seat warmers, bed warmers, or sleeping bag warmers.
Types of heating pads include electrical, chemical, and hot water bottles. Since we don’t know whether or not electromagnetic fields (EMFs) pose any risks, it’s probably best to use a non-electric heating pad just to be safe. There are many different variations of heating pads, as well as heating pad alternatives. You can even make your own! Check out the choices below; you’ll surely find one to suit your needs.
Hot Water Bottle – If your only experience with a hot water bottle is one of the older rubber ones that were seriously prone to leaking, you might be pleasantly surprised by the advances in hot water bottle technology. The new style is made of a thermoplastic material which is both better at heat retention and less likely to leak than the old rubber bags. A hot water bottle is infinitely re-usable, and can also be used with cold water for a cold pack.
Hot Hands Warmers – These small 2″ by 3″ heat packs provide 8-10 hours of safe, natural heat for the hands. They contain iron powder, water, salt, activated charcoal and vermiculite. Once removed from the specially designed outer packaging, the exposure to air activates the ingredients by oxidation. Since it’s a chemical reaction, the pads aren’t reusable. They work well for all your favorite cold weather outdoor adventures and they are the ideal solution for winter sporting events.
Hot to Go Packs – Here is an eco-friendly alternative to disposable packs that will help save you money. Unlike one-time-use heat packs, these compact, portable packs are completely reusable! Just drop them into boiling water for a quick recharge and you’re ready to go. They’re even made with BPA-free, food-grade ingredients (not that anyone’s going to eat them, but it means they can be used by toddlers who like to chew on things). They only last for 30-45 minutes, but that’s all you need in many cases.
Hot Shot Heating Pad – The Hot Shot is a portable, rechargeable battery-powered heating pack. Simply charge it, and unplug the charger when the desired temperature is reached. Otherwise, the Hot Shot will automatically shut off at 167 degrees F. Reusable and environmentally friendly, it is safe to use all night long without worry since it isn’t electric. One full charge can last a whole night under a blanket. Great for cold feet!
Hot & Cold Gel Pack – If sometimes you need heat and other times you want cold, this one’s for you. The versatile gel pack can be cooled in the freezer in as little as one hour, or warmed in the microwave/hot water in as little as 50 seconds! When used as a hot therapy, it provides soothing relief to relax muscles, soothe pain, increase blood flow and promote healing. Cold therapy is better for alleviating headaches, toothaches, swelling, bruising, and sprained ankles because it constricts blood vessels and has a numbing effect.
TheraBeads Microwavable Heating Pad – The hygroscopic beads in this TheraBeads product have a coating that enhances their ability to capture moisture. When heated in a microwave, they release retained moisture. Moist heat means maximum effectiveness. Just heat the TheraBeads heating pad in the microwave and experience easy, welcome relief from aches and pains. The pad is completely portable with no cords to get in the way. Nature’s Approach has a similar product that combines microwaveable heat therapy with aromatherapy.
USB Powered Body Wrap – Qfiber is an infrared heat therapy body wrap that effectively disperses soothing therapeutic heat all across the treatment area. It’s large enough to go all the way around your waist (up to 42″). The gentle soothing heat of the infrared rays will go deep into your tissue to relax your back, lumbar region, or abdomen. It’s perfect for in the car, relaxing on the couch, or working at your desk. You can walk around with it if you use the battery pack (it uses four AA batteries), but it drains them fast. This heat wrap has a USB connector, or it can connect to DC or AC plugs.
TherMedic Pro Wrap – Unlike the larger, wider body wrap above, this infrared wrap is smaller, narrower and specially designed to fit specific parts of the body such as the foot, elbow, knee, calf, ankle, arm, and thigh. It’s like a combination support brace and heat wrap. It uses Extremely Low-Frequency (ELF) electromagnetic waves to ensure safety. You plug it into a regular wall socket so it’s not really portable, but the cord is a good length so you don’t have to be sitting right next to the outlet. It has three temperature settings and a 30-minute auto shut off for safety.
Hot Rocks – The use of hot stones for healing dates back to when American Indians warmed stones by the fire to ease muscle aches and pains. This portable clamshell hot stone heat plate with “cool outer wall touch” technology warms rocks rapidly to the desired 122 degrees F. It can hold up to 10 small stones, but they lose heat quickly, so it’s better to use 4 large stones. It comes with 4 calcium carbonate stones (2 large and 2 small), but you can use your own (they have to be kind of flat and not too rounded or the lid won’t close). Basalt works best, because after all it is lava rock. If you don’t have any volcanic rocks in your area, you can buy these that come from Arizona, where basalt is plentiful. Even if you don’t have a hot stone heater, you can warm them in a crock pot or hot water. (Be very careful when handling hot rocks! Read these safety tips.) Enjoy a holistic hot stone experience without the expense of going to a spa!
Hot & Cold Rice – Definitely low-tech, a cloth bag filled with rice retains both heat and cold. Buy one on Amazon, sew your own, or pour 1 cup of rice into a sock. Short-grain or broken rice from an Asian market will feel softer than long grain rice. Seal in a Ziploc bag and toss in the freezer for a couple of hours for cold therapy – or better yet, keep in the freezer to have on hand for immediate use as needed. For heat, toss in the microwave for about 3 minutes. If you don’t have a microwave, you can put it in your oven at 200 degrees for about 30 minutes – BUT only use the oven method IF you use 100% cotton. If you prefer moist heat, lightly spray it with water before heating.
Hot Wet Towels – Old-fashioned hot towels tend to be messy but can provide a lot of comfort. Basically, you need to heat water in a large pot to as warm a temperature as you can stand. Put a towel or two in the pot, let them absorb the hot water, remove and quickly wring out, then place on the affected area. It’s best to either use a large towel that you can fold into several layers or use 3 or 4 smaller towels and layer them on top of each other. Or if you’re in a hurry, put a thick towel in the dryer on high heat. (Here’s a great how-to on creating a barbershop-style hot towel experience at home.)
Hot Bath – Covering yourself in hot water – a form of hydrotherapy that results in “systemic” heating – can do something for your muscles that heating pads or body wraps can ever do. While a nice hot pack feels good, it basically just creates a minor, local, neurological effect as warm skin relaxes the muscles underneath it. A relaxing hot bath will give you the same warm feeling, but the effect goes much deeper – it actually increases the temperature of the muscle itself via deep heating from the inside.