Heating pads are useful for a wide variety of different conditions and they might seem interchangeable at first glance. We dug into the not-so-esoteric world underlying these devices and found that there’s actually quite a bit of difference in both functionality and the use of such a device. Enough that it took some time to make sure we found the best ones.
For most people, the PureRelief XL might just be what you’re looking for. It’s durable, safe, and easy to clean which puts it a step above a lot of the competition. Just for argument’s sake, however, we dug up five of the best in order to bring them to you and did the digging required to make sure that you’re able to pick the right one for your own needs.
If you’re trying to get the most out of your heat therapy then give the PureRelief XL a shot. It’s one of the best around and it’s easy to see why it’s scored such high marks across the board.
Top 5 Heating Pads
|PureRelief XL – King Size Heating Pad||Electric||5/5||Check Price|
|Sunbeam King-Size Microplush/SoftTouch||Electric||4.5/5||Check Price|
|Sunbeam Body-Shaped Heating Pad with Hot & Cold Pack||Multi-Use||4/5||Check Price|
|My Heating Pad||Microwaveable||4/5||Check Price|
|Milliard Electric Therapy Heating Pad for Fast Pain Relief||Electric||3.5/5||Check Price|
1. Best Overall Heating Pad
PureRelief XL – King Size Heating Pad
With fine gradations of heat, an excellent mat, and easy to use controls, the PureRelief XL was our favorite of those that we took a look at. It’s available for a relatively small price as well, although those on a stricter budget may want to look further down our list.
The pad is flexible and quite comfortable to wear, allowing you to drape it over whichever area needs the heat application easily. It also has six different heat settings for fine tuning things to your own body’s specific needs.
It comes with a nine foot cord and has a two hour automatic shut off in case you nod off during your heating. Additionally, it;s easily washed in a washing machine once it gets dirty. It even has a decent storage bag for when it’s not in use.
Pros and Cons
- Nine foot long cord
- Comes with a storage bag
- Machine washable
- Has six different heat settings
- Bulky remote control
- Cord is rather stiff due to its thickness
2. Runner Up for Best Heating Pad
Sunbeam King-Size Microplush/SoftTouch Heating Pad
When it comes to heated… well, anything, Sunbeam is a name which frequently pops up. They make some of the best around when it comes to durability and efficiency but they always seem to come up second when it comes to the finer controls.
This pad is no exception. It’s one of the best around, the only real problem is that it lacks a super fine heat control. Everywhere else it’s an excellent performer.
We found this pad to be quick heating, plush enough for almost anything, and easy to use thanks to the backlit LED controller. The controller is also less bulky than our overall favorite although it’s still got some heft to it.
All of Sunbeam’s heating pads also come with a five year warranty son if anything happens you’ll be able to get it readily replaced.
This was among the best out there, we just didn’t like the fact that it only had four heat settings. If you can bear with that you’ll be in good hands however.
Pros and Cons
- Excellent build-quality
- Five year warranty
- Plush padding
- Good size even for larger individuals
- Only four heat settings
- Warranty can be a bit hard to get honored
3. Best for Back and Neck Pain
Sunbeam Body-Shaped Heating Pad with Hot & Cold Pack
Right off the bat we knew this was going to be a huge success or a big miss. In our opinion it’s quite a success, especially since there are multiple ways of using it.
This one comes in the form of a heated pad that’s shaped like a belt in order to be affixed to the body. We’d have dismissed it as a novelty, since it needs to be plugged in, but it also comes with a microwaveable/freezable pad that fits into a pocket and allows you to walk around freely without being hindered by a cord.
That’s a lot of use for such a cheap product. It also gets quite hot very quickly, an added bonus for those who are impatient. We found that most of our reviewers were only using the low setting if they had things placed under their shirts due to the heat.
There’s a few flaws: the main one is that the instructions are a bit unclear. While the controls are self-explanatory we’d like to have been able to not have to figure out some things ourselves. Another velcro band would have been nice as well to hold it in place over shoulders or other extremities.
That said, it’s wonderfully priced and many of our reviewers refused to surrender there’s at the end of the process which leads us to believe it’s making a positive difference in their lives. For those who need special care throughout the day it’s a winner.
Pros and Cons
- Attaches firmly around back
- Five different heat settings
- Warms quickly
- Can be used for hot/cold therapy with included pack
- Terrible instructions in manual
- A third strap would have made it even more useful
4. Best Microwaveable Heating Pad
My Heating Pad
Sometimes it’s hard to get away from the classics, and for those of us who’ve used an old-fashioned heating pad that requires microwaving there’s a good option out there. My Heating Pad is a durable, rectangular pad that can easily be placed over virtually any part of your body and you won’t have to deal with cords to get the relief you need.
This one is cheap and durable, with both a cotton and a fleece side depending on how you want to set things. It’s the smallest of the set, but if you need something a bit bigger it’s readily available as well.
The whole thing weighs about two and a half pounds, giving it enough weight to bear down on your problem and provide a bit of extra comfort that you really won’t get with electric pads as well.
The disadvantages are mostly… well, it only lasts about twenty minutes per go around in the microwave and it can take some time to get the line right between too hot and too cold. We found that once that line was found it was pretty much invaluable however.
If you’re not willing to spring for an electric pad, then consider My Heating Pad’s line of microwaveable heating pads. They’re excellent quality and we found them to hold heat better than the competition.
Pros and Cons
- Easy to use
- Provides comforting weight
- Two sided for personal taste
- Very durable
- Doesn’t hold heat as long as electric options
- Takes a bit to find the right temperature
5. Best Budget Heating Pad
Milliard Electric Therapy Heating Pad for Fast Pain Relief
Some innovative design has gone into this option from Milliard and coming in at a fraction of the cost of the competition there’s some definite advantages to be offered here.
But first off: many of our reviewers found that this one gets too hot if it’s placed above the lowest setting. That kind of trumps the fact that it only has three settings in our opinion.
On the other hand, the pad stays in place better than any of the other two piece pads that we took a look at due to it’s zippered design and we found it warms to temperature quite quickly. The cord also doesn’t detach, since you can take the exterior off in order to get it clean.
There’s some problems with this one, but it’s functional and cheap which puts it on our list.
If you’re looking for an electric heating pad which only costs a fraction of what the competition is charging then you’ll be stoked with this one.
Pros and Cons
- Great price
- Removable cover which zips to hold pad in place
- Cover is plush and comfortable
- Easy to use
- Cord is a bit short
- Heat gradient gets too hot on medium for many
Who Needs a Heating Pad?
Heating pads aren’t just something to keep your butt warm in the car. Indeed, heat therapy is used for a wide variety of different ailments. It’s actually prescribed often by physical therapists.
At home, most people use them for arthritis or deep tissue injuries.
Some of the following are treated by direct application of heat therapy:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Muscle spasms
- Lower back pain
- Joint pain
The mechanism of action for this therapy is complex, but most of the good stuff occurs through vasodilation(the widening of blood vessels) and increasing the flexibility of the joints and muscles which are being treated.
All of this together adds to a great way to handle a lot of different problems. If you haven’t been advised to start heat therapy by a professional, however, you may want to check with their advice to see if a heat pad is the right solution for your ailments.
Types of Heating Pads
While the big modern focus is undoubtedly on electric heating pads, there are quite a few lower tech variants which people have used for time immemorial. All of them have their place in the world of heat therapy and since these treatments usually aren’t meant to last for more than a couple of hours the primary benefit of electric pads comes with convenience rather than anything else.
Electric Heating Pads
Electric heating pads dominate the market currently. They’re convenient to use, generally have easy controls, and can be used for as long as necessary. They also tend to reach higher temperatures which can be an advantage for some conditions.
On the other hand, the up front price is quite high, they can use quite a bit of energy, and they aren’t really suitable for bringing around with you during the day for conditions like chronic lower back pain.
They’re available in both moist and dry types of heat, and they’re the most common option for those working with their heat therapy at home.
Microwavable Heating Pads
Microwaveable heating pads are generally some kind of cloth filled with rice or another material which will retain heat for an extended period. They’re a bit low tech but custom-built ones for hard to reach areas are still in high demand.
Their main disadvantage is that they only supply heat for a short period of time. If you’re planning on getting hours of heat out of them then you’re not going to be very happy with the results but for shorter sessions they’re pretty good.
The fact that they conform easily to body parts is nice, and they’re quite cheap and most are durable enough to stand up to months of use. It’s also nearly impossible to burn yourself with one once you’ve gotten the hang of how long they need to be in the microwave.
Chemical Heating Pads
A bit rarer and costly in the long run, chemical heating pads are great for inflammation in limited areas and acute injuries. They really aren’t a viable long term solution for most people however.
These pads utilize an exothermic reaction and usually have some sort of adhesive to hold them on the body. The wet variations last for two to three hours while the dry ones can often last for up to twelve. Since the heat is lower they can usually be worn for the entire period of time.
For those who aren’t able to come home and use an electrical pad they can be a lifesaver, the real problem is their cost in the long run since they’re a disposable device.
Which is Right for You?
After a bit of research, it was easy enough to figure out which heating pads are right for which conditions, but you should always take your doctor’s advice first and foremost.
- Electrical pads are best for those who need their heat therapy at home for prolonged periods of time, especially in the case of chronic injuries. They can be used wet or dry depending on the model.
- Microwavable heating pads are great for those who don’t want to pay upfront for their heating pad and only need brief sessions of therapy. They’re also good for those who have chronic injuries in hard to reach places with an electrical pad.
- Chemical pads are best for acute injuries or those with chronic pain who need to ensure that they’re covered for the duration of a workday.
Wet vs. Dry Heat Therapy
While both types of heat therapy have their place in the world, most people are going to primarily opt for one or the other.
Dry therapy is the most convenient to use, but it runs the risk of drying out the skin. You’ll want to apply some lotion to the area if you already have dry skin as dry heat therapy has a serious tendency to draw moisture out of the skin.
Dry heat therapy works best for those who want to keep things simple. It’s also easier to use them at slightly higher temperatures since you don’t end up the “hot tub effect” where your skin gets used to the wet temperature and burns become a serious concern. You still want to keep things at a medium level of heat however.
Dry heat also doesn’t penetrate as deeply or promote elasticity as much as moist therapy.
Moist heat therapy is really only doable at home or in dedicated facilities. It tends to penetrate deeper into the tissue in order to bring about better results for deeper injuries or large joints like shoulders, hips, and the lower back.
There’s also less concern for tissue irritation when you’re using this kind of therapy, which is important if you’re using an electrical pad for an extended period of time.
Moist heat therapy is generally what’s indicated, the lack of convenience is mostly what keeps it from being the sole method of heat therapy currently in use.
What to Look for in a Heat Pad
We’ll be honest here, microwaveable and chemical heat pads are mostly interchangeable. There’s not a whole lot to them overall, and except for the durability of microwaveable pads and the adhesives applied to chemical pads there’s not a lot of differentiation between products.
Electric pads, on the other hand, have a wide range of differing qualities that you’ll need to take a look at in order to make sure you’ve got what you need.
Since the risk of burns is definitely present whenever you’re using electricity to produce heat, we recommend making sure that any heat pad that you use is covered by a UL certification.
For the most part, this just means that the product is solid and isn’t going to burn you when you’re using it as recommended. They also require an automatic shut off after two hours, on most it can be disabled but we recommend against it in case you fall asleep.
Really this is the best way to assure you’re able to safely use the electric pad in question.
Heat therapy is very individual. That means you’ll need to ensure that you’re able to move the heat to where you want it. Most of the heating pads which we took a look at weren’t particularly fine in their gradation, but we did find that there are some out there with six or more settings.
Three should be fine for most people, but the more the merrier when it comes to this, allowing you to make sure that you’ve got exactly the right amount of heat for your needs.
Moist Therapy Capabilities
Most people are going to want to be able to use moist heat therapy, especially since pads tend to be cumbersome and need to be used at home. We made sure to check if the pad in question was able to do it without any damage.
Most electric heating pads are able to do this, but it never hurts to make sure.
It’s a fact of life that your heat pad is going to get dirty sooner or later, and that means a removable cover which can be easily washed is something to keep an eye out for.
This was one of our biggest qualifications, but it can be hard to judge them by their cover. For those who aren’t using moist therapy we also had to make sure that the covers didn’t induce a ton of sweating, since no one really likes that “sweaty pillow” feeling.
Safety and Heating Pads
It’s important that you use your pad as safely as possible.
For the most part, your doctor’s recommendations and common sense should serve you well enough, but we recommend following all of the following steps in order to make sure that you’re not burned or just aggravating things:
- Don’t use a heating pad within the first 72 hours after an injury. This can actually cause things to get worse.
- Keep sessions at 30 minutes to an hour for higher temperatures, even medium on a pad should do well enough here.
- Placing a towel between the pad and your body is a good way to use higher temperatures and reduce the risk of burning.
- Don’t sleep with a pad on, even at low heat.
So long as you follow the above advice you’ll be in good hands. Always make sure to read the instructions as well, as some may vary slightly from the general advice given above.
Whether it’s for relaxation or real medical need, heat therapy is a great way to go about things. There really is a pad for pretty much everyone out there, and making sure that you end up with the best heating pad around is exactly what we’re here to do.
We still recommend the PureRelief XL for most people, but don’t be afraid to try other options. At the end of the day the correct one for you is going to be highly personal.
There’s no need to flounder about hoping that a pad works properly, however, give any of our picks a shot and you’ll soon find out just how beneficial your new pad can be when it comes to your quality of life.