Updated: Oct 14, 2016
Heating Pad Reviews:
- What is a heating pad?
- Benefits of heating pads
- How much do heating pads cost? Which should I buy?
Have you ever pulled a muscle in your lower back and been bedridden for days? What about having back spasms to the point where walking or even standing up is painful? Doctors have told patients to use heating pads for years since they can help alleviate back pain. Heat helps relax tense or sore muscles. Heating pads for back pain are easy to find in stores like Walmart, Target, or even your local drugstore. Most cost between $20 to $60 and the top brands are Sunbeam, SoftHeat, TheraTherm, Thermophore, and Conair. Neck and shoulder pain is another common symptom for those that want a good heating pad.
The idea behind using the heat pack, or heat pad, is to keep the muscles loose so they don't spasm. It's hard to sleep when you have trouble just turning over in bed without feeling some kind of discomfort. An electric heating pad will definitely help ease the situation and keep you comfortable.
The video below shows the basic functions of a Softheat heating pad:
What to look for in a heating pad?
When we were looking online we found a variety of pads - microwaveable heating pads are ones that are filled with grains like buckwheat, flax seed, or wheat and have the ability to handle high heat capacity. One of our neighbors gave us a gel heating pad which they bought from a chiropractor and it too was microwaveable but came off too hot and needed a sleeve over it so that it wouldn't burn the skin. We decided to stay away from the gel heating pads (or microwaveable for that matter) and go with the traditional electric heating pad which can be used for all types of muscle pains and aches. Several of our friends use these for lower back pain associated with golf and tennis. They also use the massaging cushions for temporary relief.
Another variety are the moist heating pads which are used dry on the user's skin. A moist heating pad will produce temperatures from 170-180 degrees Fahrenheit and are meant for deep tissue treatment. Physical therapists use the moist heat pads - as they are good for about 20 to 30 minutes of heat therapy. The pads work by drawing moisture from humidity in the air - the moist heat stimulates tissue/muscle activity with deep, penetrating heat and within minutes the user should feel some temporary pain relief.
TheraTherm makes the best digital moist heating pads. Many older adults that suffer from arthritis are also searching for that magical solution in a heating pad. The best heating pad for arthritis is from Thermophore (see all Thermophore products here). Many of the units we saw are programmable and have digital readouts so you can easily adjust the heat temperature and relax in bed or in your favorite chair. The heating pads are usually shaped like a blanket, but some of the newer ones have superior shapes that wrap around your body (especially the lower back) and strap together so it's easy to keep close to your aching muscles or joints. There are a few designed specifically for the neck area and provide solid relief.
Heating pad reviews - The best reviews are posted on websites like Walmart or Amazon where you can read hundreds of owner opinions and get feedback on the top rated brands and products. Epinions and Viewpoints also offer up consumer comments on heating pads. Unfortunately Consumer Reports hasn't done a survey or report on heating pads (we will update this article with CR ratings when and if they ever come out on heating pads). You can browse the best selling heating pads online here.
Best Heating Pad:
RECOMMENDED - The most popular heating pads are those from Sunbeam. Sunbeam has been producing heating pads, electric blankets, and heated mattress pads for decades and their name is well recognized in this category. The top selling Sunbeam Health at Home Easy To Use King Size Moist/Dry Heating Pad is reasonably priced at $20 and the pad offers up consistent heat with their Ultraheat Technology. You get to choose from 3 heat settings and the king size heating pad measures 12" x 24". The absorbent sponge provides the moist, deep heat relief you deserve. The light blue color isn't the best (we wish they had more colors to choose from), but at least the cover is machine washable. For those with arthritic fingers or hand, the controller is designed to turn easily. There is no automatic shut-off on this unit and because of that there are mixed reviews from owners. Some say it's great since they want it on all night and don't like the brands that have automatic shut offs while others wished they didn't have to worry about turning it off when they fell asleep. There are other Sunbeam heating pads that offer automatic shut off - you can view the entire Sunbeam line of heating pads here.
To check out how to use a home heating pad to alleviate pain - click the image below to go to the video.
Moist Heating Pads:
The moist heating pads are very popular these days and the best reviews come from the TheraTherm products. We found the top rated TheraTherm Digital Moist Heating Pads provided the best relief for my wife's back muscles. The TheraTherm features digital hand controls so that you can program and monitor both the time and temperature. The temperature range goes from 88 to 166 degree Fahrenheit with automatic time control of 1 to 60 minutes. This unit also features an auto shut-off so it's safe and effective to use. It's designed with a 100% cotton flannel cover and the heated blanket pad is offered in a variety of sizes - 7" x 15", 14" x 14", 14" x 27" (the best), or the neck cutout version that is 23" x 20".
An alternative to the TheraTherm pads is the Thermophore Moist Heating Pads which is available in 4 different sizes. Per the Thermophore product description, this pad is "recommended for those with arthritis, rheumatism, TMJ, chronic back or neck pain, muscle spasms, sports injuries, strained muscles or ligaments, or Fibromyalgia". Reviews are consistently positive for this product as it provides almost instant relief. Massage therapists use these and they are great for home use as well. In 20 to 30 minute periods, the Thermophore heating pad will give you that deep, penetrating muscle relief that most other products fail at.
Neck Heating Pad:
If you are having pain or muscles spasms in your neck, consider getting a heating pad designed specifically for necks. The Sunny Bay Extra Long Neck Heating Pad is an inexpensive option that is 100% polyester. The shape will help keep the pad on your shoulders and neck region. The heating wrap is both microwaveable and freezable. Many owners call it 'warm and toasty' and say it does an excellent job of alleviating neck and shoulder pain. A few mention that the heat wrap is a bit heavy on their necks while others say the heating pad has an odd smell after being warmed up. Another option is the Dr. Bob's - Neck Wrap Heating Pad which sells for almost double what the Sunny Bay does. It does contour to your neck, shoulder, and upper back area which consumers like. The one negative comment on the pad is that it doesn't seem to be made that well. Durability could be a long term issue.
More videos and resources are here on our Heating Pad Resource Page.
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