Best Electric Heating Pads for Pain Relief


Electric heating pads are great for all kinds of pain, especially in the neck, shoulders, back, and spine. They also work well to help with pain relief for menstrual cramps. Today’s electric pads can heat up in seconds, give you the option to have moist or dry heat, and they often have luxuriously soft fabrics, so they are relaxing and comfortable to use. The best thing about these types of products is that they are an inexpensive way to get immediate pain relief without the use of drugs. There are many different types of heating pads to choose from, the following are our top picks:

Reviews

Top Pick Overall

 Sunbeam Xpress Heat Microplush Heating Pad

PROS:

  • Top side of cover is made of soft microplush fabric
  • Has an option to choose between auto shut off or continuous use
  • 6 heat levels
  • Heats up quickly (30 seconds)
  • Long power cord (9ft)
  • Large Size

CONS:

  • Some users find the digital controller and cord a little bulky.

What you need to know:

Sunbeam tends to dominate the heating pad market, so they have a lot of different designs and sizes of heating pad to choose from. The Xpress Heat is one of Sunbeam’s most popular models. It uses Sunbeam’s ‘Xpress Heat’ technology, so this pad can heat up within 30 seconds after turning it on. It has 6 heating settings and an auto off/continuous on feature. It is quite large, measuring 12″ x 24″, so it works well for the entire back or you can wrap around a particular area that you want to focus on.

What reviewers love:

Reviewers love the super soft fabric, the long cord, the fast heat up time, as well as the option to have continuous heat or to use the auto shut off (this one of the few models that has the option to have continuous heat). All of these features add up to a great product for the price. Users also love that the large size of the pad allows them to cover their back, shoulders, or wrap around their legs.

What could be improved:
It has quite a large plug at the edge of the pad, some users find the plug can be uncomfortable and make it difficult to position the mat properly.

Sunbeam.com| Amazon

 

Top Budget Option

Sunbeam Heating Pad with UltraHeat Technology

PROS:

  • Inexpensive
  • Heats up quickly
  • Has a 2 hour auto shut off (as of Jan 2017)

CONS:

  • The fabric isn’t the softest

What you need to know:

This is Sunbeam’s least expensive heating pad. It is a pretty basic model; it doesn’t have the fancy plush fabric or a lot of options. It has a reputation for being able to maintain a consistent heat at each of its 3 heat setting levels.  The pad easily snaps off and can be washed in the washing machine. The cord is long enough to use comfortably in different areas of your home.

Side note- Many people are looking for heating pads that don’t turn off automatically after a certain amount of time and really liked this feature on a previous version of this Sunbeam model, HOWEVER as of as of Jan 2017 this model comes with a 2 hour auto off that cannot be disabled. Obviously, auto shut off features are in place as a safety feature to prevent things like burns, shock or fires that are a possibility when using these types of devices. This was a popular model for dog breeders and users who need help trying to keep puppies and small animals warm (although the instructions warn that it isn’t to be used with animals). If you are looking for a pad for a pet, there are many inexpensive heating pads that are made especially for animals, see here and here).
What reviewers love:

Reviewers love that it works well for the very low price that you are paying. The large size is also great to help alleviate pain in the neck and back area.

What could be improved:

The fabric it is made from isn’t the most comfortable.

Sunbeam.com | Amazon

Best for Neck and Shoulders

 PureRelief Neck & Shoulder Heating Pad

PROS:

  • Soft fabric
  • Good heat
  • Wraps easily around neck and back
  • Great customer service

CONS:

  • Some users have found the pad has a very strong plastic/chemical smell when first used.
  • May not be the best option for larger users.

What you need to know:

The PureRelief Neck and Shoulder Pad has a number of great features, the best of which is the fact it has been designed to drape comfortably around your neck and shoulders. The design means that you don’t have to spend much time adjust the pad so you get the heat on the right spots. It is also a very luxurious pad because the fabric is made of micromink fibers, so it is super soft. It heats up quickly and turns off automatically after 2 hours. It has 4 settings – from warm to high and there is the option to use it as moist heat or just dry heat.

The heating pad is 14″ x 22″ which is large enough to curl soothingly around your neck and shoulders, without being so large as to become heavy and bulky. It has weighted magnetized edges to make sure it to stay in place. Despite being designed to place around your shoulders, you can use it for other problem areas.

What reviewers love:

Reviewers love that the design can specifically focus on the upper back and neck which is often the cause of a lot of discomfort. The pad is made out of incredibly comfortable material

What could be improved:
Many reviewers have complained about the chemical odor that comes off the pad.

PureEnrichment.com | Amazon

Top for Safety

 UTK Infrared Heating Pad for Pain Relief

PROS:

  • Doesn’t emit EMFs
  • Heat penetrates deeply into muscles and joints

CONS:

  • Some users find the design and the weight of the pad to be a little bit uncomfortable at first and it takes a bit of time to adjust to it if you are used to regular heating pads.

What you need to know:

Standard electric heating pads, like those mentioned above, emit a low frequency electromagnetic field (EMF), which some people believe may cause adverse health effects and increase your risk of getting cancer. If this is something that you are worried about, then an infrared heating pad is something that you may want to have a look at. This large UTK model uses infrared technology and has a lot going for it. It is a pretty good size and you can actually sleep on it, which you cannot do with a standard pad. The controls are very easy to see and use, even in the dark. It takes a few minutes to heat up and has a good range of temperatures. The heat is very even and while the mat can be a little bit uncomfortable, most users love the pain relief results that they are getting, because the heat can penetrate deeper into tissue than standard heat therapy.

FYI- You cannot use infrared heating products if you have any medical, silicon or metal implants or silicon prostheses.

What reviewers love:

UTK has really great customer service if you run into any issues with any of their products. Some users feel that the heat that they get from the infrared mat is able to penetrate deeper into their muscles and joints than the heat from standard heating pads. Reviewers also love the large size that allows you to lay on it or wrap it around different areas on your body. People also like that it doesn’t have any kind of odor.

What could be improved:

The high price makes this product less accessible for people who may really benefit from using it.

UTKTechnology.com | Amazon

Benefits

Not only are heating pads relaxing and comforting to use, they also can have incredible therapeutic effects.  Heating pads work extremely well as a drug free way to help with pain due to menstrual and muscle cramps, as well as back, neck, shoulder and spine pain. The heat from a standard pad works by dilating the blood vessels in your muscles, and increasing the flow of oxygen and nutrients to your tissues, muscles and joints. This process can actually help heal damaged tissue, while at the same time giving you immediate pain relief.

Features to Look for

Generally if you are looking for an electric heating pad you are going to want a product that heats up quickly, holds the heat at the set level, and is comfortable to use. Here are some other features to look for:

Size– The smallest electric pads tend to be around 12″ x 15″. The standard pads go up in size to extra-large, which is usually around 12″ x 24″. The infrared pads also have a range of sizes and can go up to a full body size of 24″ W x 70″ L. The most popular size for consumers is the extra-large size because it gives you a lot of area to work with when treating your pain.

Cord– Something that isn’t often thought before purchasing is the length of the cord of the heating pad. If you have ever had a pad with a short cord, you will know how annoying this can be. A good length to look for is 7 to 9 feet for the entire length of the cord.

Fast Heat Feature– Most modern pads heat up pretty quickly, but a ‘nice to have’ feature is a fast heat, so the pad will heat up in 30 seconds or less.

Massage Feature-Another ‘nice to have’ feature on a heating pad is the option for massage. Sunbeam have a couple of models that include a massage feature, there is also one from Conair called the Thermaluxe.

Moist Heat Option– Having a moist heat feature means that the pad has a special outer cover that is able to draw in moisture from the air, retain it and then release it when the pad warms up.  Quite a lot of the most popular pads have an option for moist heat.

Temperature Settings– Some models let you set the precise temperature that you would like within a range of around 86º to 163º Fahrenheit.   The other common way to set the temperature is to have standard heat levels. Basic models have 3 heat level settings: low, med and high. More deluxe models have 6 levels of heat to choose from.

Automatic shut off – Most pads have a 2 hour automatic shut off due to safety regulations to avoid creating a fire hazard. The infrared pads have a higher auto shut off, so they can go as high as 8 hours before the auto shut off kicks in.

Continues Heat Option – Some users prefer to have a heating pad that does not have the automatic shut off. This feature is getting harder and harder to find due to safety regulations.

Cleaning– Most pads can be either hand washed or washed on a gentle cycle. Many come with removable covers that can be washed.

Cost

Prices range from the very budget friendly $12-$13 pads that you can purchase at drug stores, to the $200 plus infrared pads that claim to help heal muscles. For most people, if you spend in the $30-$40 range you will get a great quality product that will be able to help with most ailments. The pads in this price range tend to have a soft luxurious fabric, come in a few different sizes, and they have a few different levels of heat to choose from.

Safety

Heating pads come with their own set of safety issues that should be taken seriously since they can be a cause of burns, electric shock, fire and personal injury.

Here are the major safety warnings that come with using heating pads:

  • Do not use them when you are sleeping
  • Do not use on an infant
  • Do not use on animals
  • They are not to be used by an invalid, or someone who is unconscious
  • They also should not be used by someone who has diabetes or by someone who has poor blood circulation.
  • Do not use in an oxygen enriched atmosphere or near equipment that stores or emits oxygen.
  • Don’t use anything metallic to fasten pad in place (i.e. pins)
  • Don’t pull by the supply cord
  • Don’t sit on it.
  • Do not allow anything to be placed on top of a heating pad. If it is covered by anything, may overheat and become a fire hazard.
  • Do not fold a heating mat when in use because it may cause the pad to overheat and cause a fire.
  • If you are using a pad with children you must have adult supervision
  • Don’t use heating pads with ointments, especially ones containing counter-irritants
  • Discontinue use if the pad or the cord shows any signs of damage
  • Don’t leave unattended and unplug heating pad when not in use.
  • Read all instructions of any product that you purchase carefully.

Failure to follow all safety precautions when using heating pads my result in injury or death from burns, electric shocks or fires related to the use of electric heating pads.

If you are considering purchasing an infrared heating pad, don’t use if:

  • You are pregnant
  • Have open wounds
  • Have hemophilia
  • Have Malignancy (including skin lesions),
  • Have implanted silicon or silicon prostheses, metal implants

Electric vs. Far Infrared Heat

If you love the idea of a heating pad, but are a little concerned about the safety issues that standard mats can involve, you should have a look at the infrared mats. You may have heard that EMFs are emitted from electric pads and are worried about possible health problems they may cause or maybe you are worried about burns or fire hazards that can occur from electrical heating products. Infrared products are more expensive that standard pads, but they do have a number of advantages over traditional electric pads.

Infrared pads don’t really work in the same way as conventional heating pad. The infrared heat from the pad is actually activated by your body. When it is turned on, the pad will feel warm to the touch, but it won’t be able to burn you even if the product is set to high because it isn’t producing heat, but rather far infrared waves. The far infrared waves that are generated from the pad gets absorbed by your body, where they undergo a process where the energy is converted to heat that is then able to penetrate deep into tissue and muscles.

Bottom Line

Electric or far infrared heating pads can be a wonderful addition to help ease back, neck, spine or menstrual cramp pain.  They are available for a variety of budgets, with many different designs and sizes available. They are very easy to use and can be found in drug and department stores, as well as online. If you are looking for a model that has a luxurious fabric, there are many to choose from. If you are concerned about safety, infrared pads offer a wonderful alternative to standard heating pads. For such a small investment, the amount of pain relief that heated pads provide are well worth the initial cost.