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:
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.
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.
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.
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.