heating pad

Heating Pad – types, benefits & what to look for while buying a heating pad

Be it sore muscles after your first day at the gym or muscle pain from some previous injury, the sudden trigger of joint pain on a rainy day, period cramp, or chronic back pain coming back like an old friend, heating pad is the go to thing from your family wellness kit. Chronic back pain in older people is also accompanied by stiffness in the back, restricted movement, and pain in doing the simplest action. It could be stinging, stabbing, radiating, or dull aches. And these are the most common kinds of pain that one experiences daily.

Can we skip to the good part? There is obviously nothing good about any kind of pain, but sure enough, it’s the solution; that’s the best part. What is the only solution that comes to your mind when you think about the above problems? A hot shower, massage with some warm oil, a warm crepe bandage, or use a hot water bag. All these solutions are just the use of heat therapy in different forms and mediums.

heating pad

These are home heat remedies and are readily available. Still, these are unregulated and unmonitored means of heat therapy that may not be as effective, and repetitive heat on the same surface may harm the skin.

But don’t worry, a heating pad is a better option for heat therapy at home, which is safer and more effective than the former. Please keep reading to know more about it.

What is a heating pad?

It is a pad that uses heat to relieve the pain in several body parts. It is a heating medium covered in a thick, insulated fabric that helps to contain and emit heat. If you ever had the chance to visit a physio, you must be aware that heat is a significant chunk of a lot of physiotherapies, and a heating pad makes use of the same aspect. A heating pad is versatile and can be used on any body part, be it the knee, back, calves, arms, or shoulder.

These heating pads generally use heat therapy for pain relief to calm the discomfort in the different body parts. A heating pad typically releases pain by increasing the blood flow to the affected body part.

Types of a Heating pad-

Heating pads can be divided into several categories depending on different bases like their manufacturing or the heating medium used for making them. In some rare cases, we can divide it on the basis of the body parts they are used on.

Here we show the division based on their working and the method of heating used in the heating pad.

  1. Electric heating pad

All heating pads, some of the other ways, do use electricity, but these heating pads have coils in them that induce heat at different temperatures depending on the user’s need. These are reusable and shouldn’t be used directly on bare skin. These usually work on a 230 volts outlet, but in some cases, these can be battery or power bank operated too.

  1.   Chemical heating pad

Chemical heating pads come with chemical salt and some catalysts for the reaction. These heating pads need chemical reactions to produce the heat. Some of the chemical heating pads may start the reaction once they are exposed to air, but others may require you to strike it slowly so that the salt pouch breaks to start the exothermic reaction. These heating pads are usually for one-time use and can’t be reused.

  1. Gel/Liquid heating pad

These heating pads have manual operations like one will have to put the gel pack in the microwave or boil the water and then put it back in the sleeve or the hot water bag. These directly don’t need electricity but may use to heat the gel pack or water. These are reusable and can last long when used correctly.

Although all the pads above are very different from each other, all these 3 have one common feature: their heat remains on the skin’s surface. Their heat does not penetrate deep inside the muscles to relieve the pain.

  1. Far Infrared Heating Pad (FIR)

Far Infrared technology basically works by converting electricity into far infrared light, which in turn produces heat. And Far Infrared heating pads use the same technology to induce heat for pain management. The feature that differentiates it from other types of heating pads is that its heat penetrates deep into the tissues and relaxes the muscles.

What are the benefits of a heating pad?

One heating pad can benefit you in several different ways and aspects. From healthcare to financial, all its advantages are listed below.

  1. Improves chronic back pain

Back pain is no joke, and when it’s chronic, it can make you feel miserable. Heat therapy is recommended to manage chronic and acute back pain. And a heating pad can put your miseries to an end, as it will become your personal Physio for heat therapy at home, available 24/7. The effectiveness and efficiency of pain management may differ depending on what type you choose; we would recommend a Far Infrared heating pad. Several researches have proven infrared to be more effective.

heating pad
  1.   Relaxes Sore muscles

There can be many reasons for your sore muscles, but the only best solution to that is heat. Heat is known to help reduce soreness and alleviate pain. One can use a heating pad for the job as it is handy and its temperature can be controlled according to a person’s need. All heat works well to get rid of soreness from muscle soreness, but if there are minor tears here or there, then you must go for the FIR heat pad.

  1. Cheaper in the long run  

This indeed isn’t a health benefit but surely benefits your health by reducing the stress of bills from your physio sessions. These are pretty inexpensive and usually retail for ₹1000 – ₹1500. On sale, you may find these heating pads for half the cost of your therapy session. Their price may differ with the type of heating pad you decide to purchase. Find a purchasing guide ahead in the blog.

  1. Helps with dysmenorrhea (menstrual/period cramps)

heating pad for period cramps

Dysmenorrhea is basically the condition when women get cramping during a painful menstrual cycle. This pain usually is concentrated in the abdominal area. There are a few medicines that one can take, and it is recommended to use a heating pad. 

  1. Vital for the care of aged people.

Heating pads have nothing to do with the age of their users, but yes the age group that will rip maximum benefits from this product are those over 50. According to a report by Arthritis India, 210 million Indians have arthritis. Heat can be provided in several forms like a hot bath, sauna, or hot water bags. A heating pad can be a solution to a lot of their body pain issues, be it their back or their torso. While using the heating pad, the temperature must be taken care of, as the senior citizens may be sensitive to it.

  1. Improves sleep

Sleeping in pain and irritation is close to impossible but regular use of a heating pad relaxes the body and, in turn, provides you quality sleep. The heat helps to circulate nutrients and fresh oxygenated blood to the sore and tired muscles and repair faster.

FIR heating V/S Traditional heating  

 FIR or the far infrared heating pads and other regular heating pads differ significantly, from

heating pad

their heating elements to their effect on the body.

Traditional heating pads comprise electric, chemical, or gel heating pads. The significant difference between these FIR heat pads is the heat penetration. A regular heating pad’s heat does not penetrate deep into the tissue, and you can feel the heat only till the pad is in contact with the skin. It just warms the skin and doesn’t have a long-lasting heating effect. Whereas infrared’s heat reaches deep into the tissue, relieves muscle tension, and provides longer-lasting pain relief.

Many regular heating pads use electricity to produce heat by metal coils, while some also use cotton as an insulator. However, infrared heat pads do not emit EMF in the heating process. It converts heat into infrared rays. Infrared rays are not harmful to the human body in any way as we are exposed to them daily from the sun.

Regular heating pads use different heating mediums or elements depending on their type. Some use cotton, chemicals, and others use hot water. Whereas FIR heating pads use carbon wires to heat. Carbon wires are suitable for heating and provide durability to the heating pads.

 he above paragraphs draw differences between the infrared and regular heating pads on very narrow lines. So, we can conclude that standard heating pads can be good for menstrual cramps and may relax back pain for a short period.  

According to a National Library of Medicine report, FIR heating pads are suitable for reducing chronic back pain as the penetrative heat might help cure it better. The research was on a group of people who were aged 60. Hence, we can say it is also safe for older adults.

Points to consider while buying a heating pad

When looking for a heating pad, first of all, you should know the purpose you need it for. And choose the type of pad accordingly.  

 There are some features you must look for while buying a heating pad:

  1. Soft, sweat & stain resistant fabric

  2. Inbuilt safety thermostat

  3. Lightweight and easy to carry

  4. Has different temperature levels (high, medium, low)

  5. Can be taken off-grid, can be battery or power bank operated

  6.  I prefer FIR therapy, which has the longest-lasting relief and heals better.

Safety instructions while using a heating pad:

  1. Do not apply directly on bare skin

  2. Do not fold the heat pad

  3. Do not sleep with it on

  4. Before using it consult your doctor if you have any underlying medical condition.

When to use a heating pad?

Choosing when to use heat and cold therapy can be tricky, but the preceding information might help you be sure of your decisions.

A brief about how it works is very important. Heat simply increases your blood flow to the affected area, providing oxygen and nutrients to facilitate healing. When cold is applied, it contracts the blood vessels, reducing the blood flow and the damage in the affected area.

Usually, ice should be applied ASAP, to the affected area when the pain is felt. Use ice till the inflammation is not gone. Heat can be applied to affected areas, and it can be used for previous latent injuries as well. 

Cold therapy is best for relieving sprains, strains, shooting muscle pain, and any muscular back pain during pregnancy. At the same time, heat can be used for stiffness and aching muscles, muscle spasm, and old injury. It promotes muscle relaxation and healing.

And heating pad also works on the same lines and can help relieve soreness and reduce muscle and joint stiffness. This is a type of heat therapy, sometimes known as thermotherapy. Many individuals use heating pads to relieve neck and back pain, muscular pains, arthritic symptoms, and period cramps.

When not to use a heating pad?

One should always know when not to use heat as the warm relaxing heat may seem lucrative all the time. But realise that heat is not the answer to all your problems. One must not use a heating pad for acute injuries; ice should be used instead. Overheating may lead to inflammation as the increased blood circulation may carry more pro- inflammation cells. Other than this, avoid using heat on open wounds.

What does a heating pad do to your body?

Heating pads work in the line of heat therapy. When you apply a heating pad to the affected area, it heats up the area. This heat will then increase blood flow to the affected area and helps heal. This slight rise in the temperature eases the muscle’s tension and increases muscle flexibility.

How long to use the heating pad, and can it harm you?

Every heating pad has its own set of instructions and manufacturer, but according to a general estimate, it is safe to wear it for 20 minutes.

heating pad

And yes, the heating pad may hurt you if not used correctly. Do not use it over the time limit, and one should not sleep with the heat pad on, even at the lowest setting. These can lead to burning injuries and, in some cases, may cause third-degree burns (rare but possible).

Heating pad for period cramps?

It is fantastic and safe for women on their periods to use heat pads. The preferred heat pads could be chemical heat pads, gel heat pads, and hot water bags. These are safe to use and don’t have any side effects.

Heat pads can be excellent for all your body pain issues if used correctly by following the safety measures. Heat pads can complement your existing treatment but should never be replaced with a doctor’s medications.

Written By

Kanak Tiwari

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