Heating pads provide comfort and relaxation for overtaxed muscles, but they do more than that. Heat therapy can provide healing and pain relief for many types of back injuries and conditions from muscle spasms and strain to herniated discs and sciatica.

Heating pads can also prevent injury and make physical therapy and exercise more comfortable and productive.  Heat causes the body to release chemical messengers that dilate blood vessels and increase blood flow.

Blood flowing to injuries promotes healing for spinal soft tissue injuries. Heat also encourages spasming or tight muscles to relax, reducing pain and allowing more fluid movement.  

Benefits of Using a Heating Pad

  • Relieves Muscle Spasms - Sensory nerves in the body respond to heat by releasing chemicals that dilate blood vessels in the area to enhance blood flow.  Muscle spasms restrict circulation and cause pain which can be relieved by recouping circulation and relaxing the muscles.

  • Promotes Healing - Heat from a heating pad, increasing the blood flow to the muscles in the lower back. The blood flow delivers more white blood cells, oxygen, platelets, and nutrients. All these elements help damaged tissues heal.

  • Makes Exercise More Tolerable - For many back injuries and conditions, physical therapy, stretching, and exercise are beneficial. Heat relaxes muscles and soft tissues around the spine to decrease stiffness, make movement easier, and prevent injury.

  • Improves Range of Movement -  Heating pads relax muscles and relieves pain so that the user gains in the range of movement. Applying heat before gardening, for example, might allow someone to bend and reach further and more comfortably.  

  • Reduces Medication - Use By using heat therapy, you reduce the amount of medication you take in a day. Less pain and more healing mean fewer pills.

Types of Heating Pads

  • Electrical Heating Pad - Heating pads that plug into the wall are simple to operate and fast to heat. Most have more than one setting, so you can choose the amount of heat you want and switch easily from one setting to another. 

  • Many also have a safety auto shut-off feature so that you don’t get burned if you fall asleep. A few allow you to use it for moist heat.

  • Cordless Heating Pad - A cordless pad means you can move around, use it when an outlet isn’t available and take it to use while traveling. For the ones you strap on or wear, you can use them while exercising to aid in muscle relaxation or just while engaged in everyday activities.

  • Microwave Heating Pad - With a microwave heating pad, you don’t need to have an outlet nearby and you can walk around with it. The beads or grains inside retain the heat for a limited period of time so you don’t have to worry about burns.

  • There are no wires so you can lie on the pads without causing damage to the pad. Many provide moist heat, and some can also be used as cold packs if you refrigerate or freeze them.

  • Heating Pad with Massager Heat - These can be used for the heat to relax muscles and relieve pain, and by adding massage, you get better results. A massaging pad will gently vibrate to stimulate muscles. With various heat and massage settings, you can customize your therapy to fit your needs.

  • Rice Heating Pad While it’s called a rice heating pad, it can be filled with rice or other grains and sometimes herbs and flowers. When heated in the microwave, a rice heating pad provides soothing, therapeutic, moist heat safely. Because they are not electric, you can move around with them and use them anywhere.

  • Infrared Heating Pads - combine heat and infrared treatments. Infrared therapy is a relatively new method of treating pain and healing tissue in various body parts. These combine heat with special light waves that reach and stimulate muscles, tendons, and bone to sooth and heal.

 7 Top Heating Pads for Back Pain Relief

 

1. Best Electrical Heating Pad

The Mighty Bliss Large Electric Heating Pad is excellent for relieving menstrual cramps and back pain, but its large size makes it work well for shoulders, legs, and anywhere else you have pain. By adding moisture, the heat penetrates deep and gives you fast, effective relief from pain.

electrical heating pad

  • Larger size, 12” x 24”, makes it ideal for wrapping around your abdomen or lower back to relieve cramps or back pain.

  • The easy-to-use control gives you three heat options, low, medium, and high, and the auto shut-off safety feature makes sure you don't burn yourself if you should fall asleep.

  • You can either apply water in a fine mist from a spray bottle or dab the cover with a damp sponge or cloth to add moist heat. The moisture helps the heat penetrate and soothe sore muscles.

  • The pretty blue, soft microplush cover is long-lasting and strong, and you can wash the entire pad in the washing machine.

The Mighty Bliss is great because it’s a larger size to wrap around your body, and you can use it to apply moist heat. When it gets dirty, you can wash it in the washing machine.

2. Best Cordless Heating Pad

You can wear the GoHeat Cordless Sunbeam Heating Pad and move through your normal routine. Its rechargeable battery fits into a small pocket of the pad, and you can Velcro the pad on, choose a setting and enjoy the heat treatment while you do other things.

cordless heating pad

  • The cordless, wearable pad is designed for the lumbar region, abdominal area, shoulder, or even leg. The elastic and Velcro allow anyone to wear it. It fits waist sizes from 25” to 63”.  

  • The rechargeable, high-capacity lithium battery lasts eight hours on a low setting and four on the highest heat setting.

  • GoHeat uses the latest graphene heating chip, which goes to work within seconds providing infrared thermal energy.

  • The three different settings provide appropriate temperatures to relieve all kinds of cramps and discomfort.

  • The wearable unit transports easily, so you can take it with you when you travel and enjoy the heat while flying or driving.

 The GoHeat is great because you can wear it, and it handles any muscle group in your body. It's rechargeable, heats fast, and provides hours of relief.  Whether for your lumbar or abdominal area, wearing it while you move will help with daily tasks, exercise, and muscle pain. 

3. Best Microwave Heating Pad

My Heating Pad Microwavable Multi-Purpose Wrap is an excellent choice for relieving neck or shoulder stiffness but also works well to relieve back or joint pain and menstrual cramps. The long slender shape with handles at either end makes it ideal for draping and holding over the shoulder or around the neck. You can also use it as a cold pack to reduce swelling or relieve pain.

microwave heating pad

  • It works hot or cold. Microwave it for between 37 and 75 seconds depending on your microwave, and use the form-fitting wrap hot to soothe sore muscles and ease the pain. To use it as a cold pack, place it in the freezer for several hours. It’s great for headaches.

  • The flexibility and shape make it ideal for any part of the body. Use it on wrists for carpal tunnel injuries, on the abdomen for menstrual cramps, around the neck for neck stiffness or pain, and anywhere else you need it on your body.

  • The 100% organic material inside is a combination of grains, herbs, and flowers which makes moist heat to give you superior heat penetration.

  •  It's easy and safe to use anywhere. Because there are no cords, you can move while wearing them. Since it cools slowly as you use it, you won't burn yourself if you fall asleep using it.

My Heating Pad Microwavable Multi-Purpose Wrap is great because you can use it hot by microwaving it or cold by putting it in the freezer. It's long and narrow, and the handles make it perfect for wrapping around anywhere you want pain relief.  Maintain an active lifestyle by using the wrap before or while working out or completing daily chores around the house.

 4. Best Heating Pad with Massager 

The Bedsure Weighted Heating Pad with Massager is a mini blanket you can drape over any part of your body. The weight, heat, and massage features comfort you and soothe sore muscles and aching joints.

heating pad with massager

  • The weighted 12” x 24” blanket can be used anywhere on the body

  • The Bedsure comes in turquoise or gray and is made from double-faced, ultra-soft, and comfortable microfiber with quilted glass beads inside for weight and massage.

  • The pad warms fully within one minute, and there are three heat settings, Low, Medium, and High, with temperatures ranging from 115 degrees to 145 degrees. The safety auto-off turns the heat off after 2 hours.

  • The comforting massage feature has three settings. The vibrating beads gently massage sore muscles. The massage feature turns off automatically after 30 minutes.

  • The Bedsure massaging heated pad promotes better sleep by providing weight, heat, and massage, which relaxes you and allows you to fall asleep.

The Bedsure is great because it's larger than other pads and the weight (5 lbs) helps it drape completely over you. The weight and warmth are relaxing, and the massage feature helps relax your muscles. Between the three massage settings and three heat settings, you have nine different comfort settings from which to choose.

5. Best Rice Heating Pad

The Carex Bed Buddy Heat Pad and Cooling Neck Wrap can be used anywhere on the body but works particularly well for neck and shoulder pain. Its long thin shape with loop handles on the ends wraps snuggly around your neck or across your shoulder. You can heat it in the microwave to apply moist heat or put it in the freezer to use as a cold pack.

rice heating pad

  • Use it hot or cold. Put it in the microwave for between 37 and 75 seconds, depending on your microwave, and you get comforting, muscle relaxing moist heat. If you put it in your freezer for a few hours, you have a useful cold pack.

  • 100% natural, organic material - The pad is filled with grains, herbs, and flowers and covered by a soft, comfortable cover.

  • Form Fitting means it can be used anywhere on the body from the neck to the back. Cold, it’s ideal for headaches and swollen joints. The warm or hot moist heat works well for carpal tunnel wrists, shoulder discomfort and neck strain.

  • Portable - because there’s no cord, you can move around with the pad while it does its work. You can also safely lie on it or wear it to fall asleep.

The Carex Bed Buddy is great because you can use it hot or cold, and it conforms to your body. It's safe to use while in bed, so the moist heat can soothe muscles to help you fall asleep. It's filled with 100% organic material, grains, herbs, and flowers.

6. Best Heating Pad for Sciatica

Ruqiji 17''x33'' XXXL King Size Heating Pad is large enough to cover your entire back, through the hips and the thighs. Its fast heating technology has six different settings, which is three more than most others. The soft flannel cover is comfortable and holds the heat well.

heating pad for sciatica
  • With the fast-heating technology, the pad is hot within a minute but turns off after two hours to prevent overheating and burns to the body. You choose between 6 settings on the easy-to-read digital display controller.

  • It’s hand or machine washable. Just remove the cord and wash it by hand or in the machine on a gentle cycle. Lay flat and dry completely before using it again.

  •  The larger size makes treating multiple areas of the body at the same time possible. For example, if you have overdone and multiple muscle groups are sore, you don't need more than one heating pad. Because sciatica involves lower back, hips and legs, this pad is ideal.

  •  An extra-long cord means you can use it in the easy chair even if it’s not close to an outlet. The cord is about 3 meters long.

The Ruqiji  King Size Heating Pad is great for sciatic relief. With sciatica, a disc in the lower spine presses on a nerve that sends pain through the back, into the hips, and down the leg.

This pad is large enough to apply soothing, muscle relaxing heat to your entire back, hips, and thighs. Because you have so many choices on temperature, you can use a low setting for warmth and a higher setting to apply intense heat, increasing blood flow and relieving pain. The soft flannel cover is comfortable and holds the heat well.

7. Best Infrared Heating Pad

 The UTK Far Infrared Natural Jade and Tourmaline Heating Pad provides relief from muscle tension, back pain, and cramps by combining heat and far-infrared treatments. Infrared therapy is a light-based method of treating inflammation and pain by emitting light waves and positively charged ions. The combined treatment provides deeper penetration and more effective pain relief.

infrared heating pad

  • It uses natural jade and tourmaline stones and built-in carbon fibers to emit far-infrared light and positive ions, which help heal tissue and relieve pain.

  •  The Smart Controller has a memory function you can program to remember heat levels and time periods which can be especially useful for treating elderly patients.

  • Choose from several heat settings. The automatic shut-off feature turns the unit off after a full four hours unless you program it to turn off sooner. Most heating pads have a much shorter running time.

  • The combination of infrared and thermotherapy makes this an ideal pad to treat injuries as well as muscle strain or spasms and cramps.

The UTK Far Infrared Natural Jade and Tourmaline Heating Pad is great because it uses natural stones to emit positive ions and carbon fibers to send out infrared light. The pad combines these with heat to relieve pain from muscle tension, back pain, and cramps—relief by combining heat and far-infrared treatments.  The combined treatment provides deeper penetration and more effective, longer-lasting pain relief. The unit is programable and can remain in use for four hours at a time.

 Frequently Asked Questions

 

Why is moist heat better for heat therapy?

Both moist and dry heat relax muscles and increase the blood flow to the area being treated, but moist heat provides deeper tissue penetration. It also causes the muscles or tissue temperature to change more rapidly. Most people report feeling more relief sooner with moist heat. You can get moist heat from many microwave-type pads and some electric ones. 

 

How does infrared work?

Infrared treatment uses a kind of light wave that doesn’t lose energy when it penetrates the body’s soft tissue. The waves cause vibration in the body, which promotes healing. Infrared light reaches 2 to 7 centimeters into the body and can reach skin, muscle, and even bones.

Do microwave heating pads work as well as electric ones?

Microwave-heated therapeutic pads have advantages over electric ones. They are simple to use and very safe because they don't stay hot and you can lie on them without causing damage because there are no internal wires. Both types provide soothing heat, but many microwave types make moist heat which works better for most people.  You may have to reheat the pad once it cools, but you can move around and don’t have to be near an outlet.