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 options can warm up in seconds, give you the opportunity 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, but they also can have incredible therapeutic effects. They work exceptionally 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 warmth 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 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 option you are going to want a product that warms 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 products tend to be around 12″ x 15″. The standard designs go up in size to extra-large, which is usually around 12″ x 24″. The infrared products also have a range of sizes and can go up to 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. If you have ever had an electric blanket with a short cable, you will know how annoying this can be. A good range to look for is 7 to 9 feet for the entire length of the cord.
Fast Heat Feature– Most modern products warm up pretty quickly, but a ‘nice to have’ feature is a rapid heat so that the design will start working in 30 seconds or less.
Massage Feature-Another ‘nice to have’ feature is the option for massage. Sunbeam has 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 product has a unique outer cover that can 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 change the temperature is to have standard heat levels. Basic models have three heat level settings: low, med and high. More deluxe models have six levels of heat available.
Automatic shut off – Most pads have a 2-hour automatic shut off due to safety regulations to avoid creating a fire hazard. The infrared products 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 designs can be either hand washed or washed on a gentle cycle. Many come with removable, washable covers.
Prices range from the very budget friendly $12-$13 products 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 high-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 available.
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 general safety warnings that come with using electrical products:
- 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 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 product in place (i.e., pins)
- Don’t pull by the supply cord
- Don’t sit on it.
- Do not put anything on top of a heating product. If it is covered, it may overheat and become a fire hazard.
- Do not fold an electric mat when in use because it may cause it to overheat and cause a fire.
- If you use it with children, you must have adult supervision
- Don’t use with ointments, especially ones containing counter-irritants
- Discontinue use if it shows any signs of damage
- Don’t leave unattended and unplug product when not in use.
- Read all instructions of any product that you purchase carefully.
Failure to follow all safety precautions when using heating pads may result in injury or death from burns, electric shocks or fires.
If you are considering purchasing an infrared heating product, 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 designs and are worried about possible health problems they may cause or maybe you are concerned about burns or fire hazards that can occur from electrical products. Infrared products are more expensive than standard pads, but they do have some advantages over traditional electric products.
Infrared options don’t work in the same way as a conventional heating pad. The infrared heat from the pad is activated by your body. When it is turned on, it 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 product gets absorbed by your body, where they undergo a process where the energy converts to heat that is then able to penetrate deep into tissue and muscles.
Electric or far infrared heating pads can be an excellent 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 available. If you are concerned about safety, infrared designs offer a fantastic alternative to standard heating options. For such a small investment, the amount of pain relief that heated pads provide are well worth the initial cost.