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The right—and the wrong—way to use a heating pad

The right—and the wrong—way to use a heating pad
Posted at 4:30 AM, Jun 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-31 18:47:36-04

If you’re suffering from aches and pains, you may need heat therapy. Heat therapy, applied to specific areas of the body with products like heating pads, makes your collagen more elastic, resolves inflammation, and improves circulation by dilating blood vessels. This can soothe discomfort and increase muscle flexibility; it can also help heal damaged tissue. Heat therapy is a good alternative to taking medication when stiffness, joint pain or muscle spasms limit your mobility.

Use The Best Heating Pads For Quick Relief

Heating pads offer a convenient way to get on-the-spot relief. As a heat pack warms up the area of the body it’s placed on, it stimulates blood vessels to become larger, which increases blood flow and allows nutrients and oxygen to reach joints and muscles more quickly. This process aids in repairing damaged muscles and loosening up back stiffness.

Heating pads are great if you have pain, cramping or stiffness in a targeted spot, like your back or knee. If your whole body feels achy, a warm bath might work better. If your home doesn’t contain a tub, opt for a steamy shower.

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The Best Heating Pad For Your Lifestyle And Needs

Several types of heating pads exist: electric, infrared, chemical and gel or liquid versions. Which type works best for you may depend on what body part you want to use it on, what kinds of safety features you want, and whether you’re at home or somewhere else.

Electric pads are convenient because they can consistently maintain the same temperature throughout use, either through a battery power pack or by plugging into an outlet. Several electric heating pads on the market come with a variety of settings and include an automatic shut-off timer that prevents injury.

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Infrared heating pads are also electric. However, they convert this electricity to infrared heat, which can offer a modern solution to pain because the heat will penetrate deeply into muscles.

Chemical pads work by causing a chemical reaction in their ingredients that provides heat for a short period of time. To activate, you either expose the material to air or squeeze the pad. These are often available in packs and may stick right to your skin or clothing. They’re often single-use items, but work great for traveling.

Gel pads are convenient if you have access to a microwave, as they’ll need to be heated for a minute or two. Don’t place gel pads directly on your skin! Follow manufacturer’s directions for safety; these may need to be wrapped in a towel or used on top of clothing.

Of course, there’s also the good old-fashioned hot water bottle option too.

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Whichever one you choose, however, the best heating pad will warm up quickly and maintain its temperature for as long as you need it. It will also be the right size and shape for your condition. You may, for example, need something that wraps around your knee or another joint.

Tips For Using Your Heating Pad

Many people use heating pads to treat chronic back pain. If it’s a recent injury—within 24 to 48 hours—then use cold therapy first for best results. The cold will restrict blood vessels, reduce swelling, decrease inflammation, and cause some numbing. After the inflammation has been reduced, apply heat to improve tissue and muscle flexibility and overall back functioning.

How long you use your heating pad will depend on your tolerance to heat and the level of pain occurring in your body. Generally speaking, it’s best to remove it after 15 to 30 minutes on the highest setting. If you set it for a lower temperature, you can use your pad for longer, possibly up to an hour. Start on the lowest setting and gradually increase the heat intensity if need be.

Keep Safety In Mind

Try not to fall asleep while using your heating pad, unless you have the automatic shut-off option. Don’t apply a pad to damaged skin, open wounds, or any area with nerve damage. Never use a heating pad with a cracked electrical cord.

Avoid using a heating pad if you’re pregnant for longer than 10 to 15 minutes, as prolonged exposure to heat could be harmful to the fetus.

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