No matter how much you warm up, hydrate and ensure you’re exercising properly, gym injuries are an inevitability. Whether it’s a strain, sprain or another more serious activity-related problem, taking the right approach to recovery can be the difference between sitting on the sideline for days, and being out for the entire season. Having the best heating pads and cooling pads on hand for injury management can make a big difference. Let’s take a look at why.
When it comes to the initial treatment of an injury, it’s usually best to apply a cold treatment to the site of injury for the first 48 hours and stay away from any heat. This cold burst helps lessen inflammation and reduces swelling at the site. However, after this initial period, many physicians and physical therapists recommend switching from cold compresses to heat applications in the form of pads or wraps or combining the two.
Choosing the best heating pad to apply heat to your injury depends on several factors, from personal preference to the site of injury. There’s also a difference between electric and non-electric options that create dry or moist heat, respectively.
Benefits of Heating Pads
If you’re still asking yourself why you need a heating pad in your life, below you’ll find some of their major benefits. It doesn’t matter whether it’s an injury caused by overexertion, muscle cramps or even just daily discomfort, heating pad therapy is simple and easy to do and can make a big difference. Some of the major benefits include:
Increased Blood Flow – Applying heat to any part of your body increases the blood flow to the area by opening blood vessels. This increase in blood flow is accompanied by an increase in the amount of oxygen and nutrients at the site. Nutrients and oxygen are key elements in the recovery process which is one of the major reasons heat therapy can be so beneficial to injury recovery.
Pain Relief – Another benefit of heat application is pain relief. Applying heat to sore areas can provide a reassuring warmth that feels good and relaxes at the same time. While the major reason for heat application may be physiological, the therapeutic element should not be overlooked.
Ease of Use – Most heating pads allow you to treat injuries and discomfort in the comfort of your own home or even on the go. This flexibility and convenience often negate the need to attend in-person therapy clinics and provides freedom while still aiding recovery.
Cost – Compared to hours of physical therapy, a heating pad is a steal. This is especially beneficial when you’re dealing with low-level injuries that can be managed at home.
We’ve put together a list of the best heating pads, wraps and warmers. Options include both plug-in electric and microwavable options. You’ll also find pads that can deliver dry heat or moist heat, along with remote devices that are capable of giving you heat therapy on the go.
1. GENIANI Extra Large Electric Heating Pad
This heating pad has over 7,000 reviews and a 4.5-star rating so you know it’s good. A sample of this heating pad was sent to our editor, Taylor Galla, and she loved it. It heats up quickly and evenly, and it’s very easy to use. The material on the outside is comfortable, so it almost feels like a small blanket draped over your lap, lower back or shoulders. It has low, medium or high temperature settings that are easy to switch between and the auto shut-off offers peace of mind for falling asleep with it, knowing you won’t burn yourself or your house down.
2. Mighty Bliss Large Electric Heating Pad
With over 3,000 five-star reviews, the Mighty Bliss Large Electric Heating Pad is a well-reviewed and hugely popular option for delivering pain relief to sore muscles and other sites of discomfort. The large size provides plenty of coverage for your aches and pains, while the near-instant heat means you don’t have to wait long after workouts to get the relief you’re after. The pad is made from soft microfiber plush to ensure maximum comfort during your treatment. It also features three different heat settings and can be used wet or dry, depending on your preference.
3. Attmu Classic Hot Water Bottle
The Attmu Classic Hot Water Bottle is a budget-friendly way to relieve your pains. It’s available in six different colors and includes a soft knit cover for a comfortable feel against your skin. It’s made from a thermoplastic material, which is both odorless and recyclable. It also includes a wide mouth for easy filling and emptying, and it’s transparent to prevent any unwanted over or under-filling. In addition to providing relief for sore muscles, the water bottle is great for staying warm on cooler nights, too.
4. Sunbeam Heating Pad
BEST BUILT-IN CONTROLLER
With its built-in controller, the Sunbeam Heating Pad offers a level of control few other heating pads can compete with. The controller’s easy-to-use, sliding mechanism allows you to choose the exact heat which works best for you. At 12-by-15 inches, the large pad also provides plenty of coverage, meaning you can treat whole muscle groups at one time. Additionally, the heating pad includes an automatic, two-hour off function, meaning you can doze off mid-session without any worry.
5. Thermalon Microwave Moist Heat Pad
BEST FOR HAND WARMTH
The Thermalon Microwave Moist Heat Pad is ideal for providing relief to your hands, feet, back, shoulders and more. It’s made from polyester and spandex and is designed to deliver a heat treatment for pain relief or simply a warmer environment. These heating pads are simple to use and require only a quick spin in the microwave to warm up before applying to the site of discomfort. The pads are non-toxic and free from unwanted odors.
6. My Heating Pad Hot Therapy Pack
The My Heating Pad Hot Therapy Pack is a great option for users in need of a versatile heating pad. At 12-by-six inches, the pack can be used almost anywhere on your body, including your arms, legs, shoulders and stomach. Plus, the pack’s two-pound weight helps to keep it in place when in use. The rice and flaxseed-filled heating pad also sports a super soft side for contacting your skin and a thick cotton side for retaining heat. Furthermore, this well-reviewed pad comes in both scented and unscented models.
7. Nature’s Approach Aromatherapy Belted Lumbar Wrap
BEST FANNY PACK-STYLE
By utilizing a fanny pack-style design, Nature’s Approach Aromatherapy Belted Lumbar Wrap is easily worn and adjusted to ensure the hot or cold therapy hits just where you want it to. After microwaving or freezing the wrap, simply wrap the belt around your body and fasten the buckle for a secure treatment in your chosen area. The wrap is also made with all-natural, organic ingredients, meaning it’s safe for use in pet-owning households and better for the environment, too.
8. Mr Relief Large Heating Pad
BEST AS A GIFT
This heating pad may look a little bit like the floor mats from your car, but the Mr Relief Large Heating Pad is actually a versatile answer to relieving your back, neck, shoulder and abdominal pain. The device makes a great gift idea for the winter season. This particular heating pad is made from an ultra-soft flannel for maximum comfort during use and is fast heating. The pad also offers four different heating options (including a moist heating setting) to deliver the exact temperature you’re after.
9. Tempthera Reusable Hot and Cold Gel Packs
If you’re treating a sports injury, you’ll likely need to apply both hot and cold compresses. So, it only makes sense to have a heating pad that can do both. The Tempthera Reusable Hot and Cold Gel Packs can be microwaved for a hot treatment or placed in the freezer for a cold one. Plus, the gel inside the packs always remains evenly distributed throughout. This fact alone sets the Tempthera gel packs apart from many of its competitors.
10. Happy Wraps Microwavable Herbal Neck Wrap
The Happy Wraps Microwavable Herbal Neck Wrap is a USA-made answer to neck pain, which is made from 100% cotton and can fit most adults who weigh under 250 pounds. This versatile wrap can also be used for other body parts and conditions, including migraines, arthritis and more. Plus, the wrap comes with a free Lights Out Sleep Mask, which helps lull users to sleep with its ability to block out light and soothe with a nice, calming lavender scent.
11. Vellax Electric Heating Pad
If you prefer the idea of a wearable heating pad, give the Vellax Electric Heating Pad a try. The large vest-style pad features a plush and cozy exterior and includes a cut-out for fitting over/around your head. The design also includes magnetic closures which ensure the heating pad remains secure around your body during use. You’ll also find a sliding remote control which lets you choose between the three levels of heat and a thermostatic control which automatically lowers the heat after 1.5 hours to help prevent overheating.
12. Veridian Deluxe Heating Pad
BEST FOR LOWER BACK
The Veridian Deluxe Heating Pad makes it easy and comfortable to deliver moist or dry heat to your lower back, upper back and other joints and muscles, too. The pad’s size makes it ideal for covering large areas in a single treatment, while the built-in controller lets you adjust the heat level. In addition, the pad’s soft, micro-plush exterior adds a greater level of comfort to be enjoyed.
13. PureRelief Deluxe Heating Pad
The PureRelief Deluxe Heating Pad sports a nine-foot cord which gives you plenty of freedom to move around. Combine this with the pad’s 12-by-24-inch size, and you have both convenience and impressive coverage in one. You’ll also find a built-in control that lets you initiate the near-instant heat or choose between the pad’s four heat settings. Additionally, the machine-washable pad is available in three different colors and accompanied by an impressive, five-year warranty.
14. Sunbeam SoftTouch Heating Pad
If you’re looking for a pad to use every day or on a regular basis, the Sunbeam SoftTouch Heating Pad is definitely worth your consideration. It features four different heat settings and includes a two-hour, auto shut-off to save energy and prevent overheating if you happen to nod off. Plus, at 12-by-24 inches, the mat is capable of covering a range of muscle areas, including your shoulders, spine and legs. Furthermore, for easy maintenance, the pad’s plush exterior is machine washable.
15. Sunbeam XpressHeat Heating Pad
MOST HEAT SETTINGS
The Sunbeam XpressHeat Heating Pad offers six different heating modes which can be enjoyed in as little as 30 seconds after the pad is first switched on. It sports an extra-large size which lets you cover whole areas of your body and treat more than one muscle group at a time. The attached LCD remote control lets you cycle between the pad’s heating modes or select the two-hour automatic shut-off to save power and prevent overheating. You’ll also find that the pad is machine washable, making it easier to keep clean and maintain.
16. Gintao Electric Foot Warmer
BEST FOR FOOT PAIN RELIEF
If you have regular pain around your foot muscles and joints, the Gintao Electric Foot Warmer might be the answer to your problems. The device uses heating technology to encourage increased circulation and provide constant warmth to help relieve stiffness and soreness. Measuring 20 by 22 inches, the device is the right size for a pair of feet. Furthermore, this heating pad is made from ultra-soft flannel, delivers three different levels of heating and includes an automatic shutoff after two hours of use.
17. Dr Relief Heating Pad Gift Set
BEST GIFT SET
There aren’t many people who would be unhappy at receiving the Dr Relief Heating Pad Gift Set as a gift. The two-piece set includes both an extra-large mat as well as a shoulder pad, ensuring you have a way to treat every part of your body. The 18-by-25-inch king size pad is machine washable and has a nine-foot power cord for flexibility during use. The shoulder pad sports a U-shaped design which makes fitting it around your neck more secure and comfortable. In addition, the set comes with a handy, drawstring bag for storing the pads which are also available in three different colors.
18. PhysioNatural Microwavable Large Heating Wrap
After a warming burst in the microwave, the PhysioNatural Microwavable Large Heating Wrap is ideal for relieving pain and soreness across the body. The heating pad is filled with flaxseed in a multi-chamber design to provide an even amount of heat during use. When the heat has left the pad, you can easily reuse it by reheating it in the microwave. The versatile, belt-style shape, which includes a Velcro fixture, makes it perfect for pain relief in your stomach, shoulders, back and more.
19. Pure Enrichment PureRelief Heating Pad
BEST FOR BACK PAIN RELIEF
The Pure Enrichment PureRelief Heating Pad is a stylish way to deal with back pain. The jacket-style device is available in either grey or sea glass and provides warming relief for your shoulders, neck and back at four different heating levels. The pad is made from a super soft micro mink and includes a magnetic closure for wrap-around comfort. It’s also machine washable and features a convenient two-hour automatic shut-off.
20. Pure Enrichment PureRelief Lumbar Heat Pad
For targeted pain relief around the lumbar and abdominal areas, turn to the Pure Enrichment PureRelief Lumbar Heat Pad. This ergonomic heating pad acts like a belt with adjustable straps to sit around your lower back. The machine-washable fabric is complemented by a built-in LED controller that allows you to turn the pad onto one of four heat settings. In addition, this device includes a therapeutic gel pack that can be used cold or hot and inserted into the belt for injury therapy.
21. Sunbeam GoHeat Portable Heated Patches
The Sunbeam GoHeat Portable Heated Patches let you treat your sore joints and muscles while performing other tasks at the same time. The two included gel patches attach to your skin to help you target the site of pain. You can then clip on the rechargeable battery pack and start enjoying your preference of the three different heating settings. The device can provide up to eight hours of heat from a single charge.
22. HailiCare Wireless Heated Knee Wraps
BEST FOR KNEE PAIN RELIEF
If you often have problems with your knees or elbows, the HailiCare Wireless Heated Knee Wraps can help. This pair of devices heats up in seconds and delivers adjustable heating between 113 degrees Fahrenheit and 150 degrees F to deliver effective pain relief. Furthermore, these devices feature a massage mode, which uses a built-in vibration motor to further aid relief and leave your joints feeling pain-free. You’ll also find adjustable straps, which help ensure a secure fit to your arms, thighs or calves.
23. UTK Far Infrared Heating Pad
With its simple rectangular design, the UTK Far Infrared Heating Pad is a versatile way to deliver pain relief to your back, shoulders, legs, arms and more. The pad can reach temperatures up to 159 degrees F and is composed of 126 certified natural jade stone pills, which transfer heat to the site of pain. The flexible pad can also wrap around limbs and joints for greater coverage, while the 110-inch power cord gives you the freedom to enjoy the treatment on the couch or in bed.
How Long Should You Use a Heating Pad?
The first time you use a heating pad, it’s a good idea to begin on the lowest setting and ease your way in, ensuring you feel comfortable throughout the experience. Often, the treatment duration will be dictated by the heat setting and the outcome you’re looking for. Physical injuries may require higher bursts of heat lasting up to 20 minutes at the most, otherwise, you run the risk of burning your skin and causing further injury. This is especially true when using heating pads on their maximum setting. For recreational use, the duration really comes down to you. However, most pads include an automatic shut-off in case you become too relaxed and happen to nod off.
Is it safe to use a heating pad?
Yes! But, always make sure to read the heating pad’s accompanying advice pamphlet before diving in. As mentioned above, some heating pads are capable of delivering high levels of heat, which, when applied to the skin for excessive periods, may result in burning. This is equally true for cold pads, too. If you’re particularly unsure, it’s often a good idea to add an additional layer, like a towel or a piece of clothing, between your skin and the pad.
One important warning to remember is not to apply heat pads to “fresh” injuries (those which have just occurred), as heat may increase swelling and inflammation. Always allow around 48 hours before your first heat treatment. Additionally, you should never apply heating pads to sites of infection.