Updated: September 2018
When your back, neck, or shoulder is throbbing or sciatica pain is almost literally kicking your butt, you want relief now. It doesn’t matter if it’s because you turned the wrong way while trying to lift a heavy box, played flag football for the first time in a decade, or suffer from osteoarthritis. The good news is that you don’t have to depend solely on pain meds or topical creams.
A good heating pad is a great way to get some quick relief. While a Far Infrared (FIR) mat with the added benefits of amethyst can’t be beat in most cases, you may find that a traditional electric pad may work just fine for lesser pain. Because pain can vary in location and severity, the best heating pad for one person can be completely different for another.
Our 6 Favorite Heating Pads
|MediCrystal||Far Infrared||32" x 20"||86° - 158° F||Eco-Suede||1 - 9 hours|
|Charmed||Far Infrared||31" x 20"||95° - 158° F||Cotton/Poly||1/4/8 hours|
|Ereada||Far Infrared||59" x 24"||68° - 158° F||Microfiber||4/8/12 hours|
|Thermophore||Electric||27" x 14"||3 heat settings||Canvas-like||25 min|
|Sunbeam Pad||Electric||20" x 11"||5 heat settings||Polyester||2 hours|
|Sunbeam Wrap||Electric||25" x 25"||4 heat settings||Royalmink||2 hours|
Far Infrared Heating Pad ReviewsYou’ll notice when shopping for far infrared heating pads, quality varies greatly between brands. MediCryastal, a US-based, FDA registered company, is one of the good ones. They make what we believe to be the best infrared heating pad out there.
This 32″ x 20″ far infrared amethyst mat “mini” is the perfect size for upper and lower back pain sufferers (although it works for other areas too). The mat’s 18-layer construction includes over 6 pounds of crushed purple amethyst. The eco-suede cover is soft, comfortable, easy-to-clean, and durable. The total weight of the mat is 9 pounds so you know it’s made to last.
All electric heating produce an EMF (electromagnetic field). With far infrared pads which go deeper into the tissue, you need to be extra cautious. The fact that this model produces almost zero EMFs (electromagnetic fields) confirms that it’s a high quality and SAFE product.
Anyone who has ever lived with back pain for any amount of time knows that there is no shortage of alternate treatments out there. Unlike some other infrared heating pads that can penetrate about 4 inches under your skin, the MediCrystal mat can penetrate up to 8 inches under the skin surface. This means it can lessen the pain longer than normal heating pads.
Simply plug in the electrical cord, set your desired temperature anywhere between 86° – 158°, and let the heated amethyst do their thing to relax away your pain. The included timer can be set anywhere from 1-9 hours. Unlike cheap infrared heating pads, it doesn’t take long for it to heat up, so you’ll begin to feel the effects quickly.
Also, compared with standard heating pads, this mat can be used for longer periods. If you want to place it on the back while you watch a couple of hours of television, that’s okay. Turn down the heat, set a timer, and fall asleep on the mat to sleep like a baby.
One factor that may be off-putting for some people is the price. The mat definitely costs more than a basic heating pad from the local drugstore. However, people who have tried the mat have noticed pain relief for a variety of back issues along with a good sense of relaxation. Also, along with the MediCrystal mat, you also get a breathable waterproof cover, cushion mat, controller, and carrying bag so there’s nothing else to buy.
For others, the claim of having “negative ION therapy to detox” might be a bit too new-agey for them and we tend to agree. But ignore that, and you still have an excellent far infrared heating mat that uses deep heat to relax those muscles and joints. Also available in larger Midsize and Professional sizes.
If the MediCrystal mat is our top pick, the Charmed mat is option 1a. Both are excellent FIR mats sold by American companies with outstanding customer service. Manufactured by an FDA registered supplier means you’re getting a high quality mat that will last for years. Many users have compared this mat to the much more expensive Richway BioMat with the only difference being a fancier control module in the BioMat.
The 31″ x 20″ Charmed far infrared mat has a temperature range of 95° – 158° and claims to penetrate heat up to 6 inches under the skin. We’re a little skeptical of the MediCrystal’s claimed 8 inches since both mats have the same max temperature but either way, both mats can actually raise your body temperature.
Each of the 16 layers serves a purpose and the top layer is a high-quality cotton/polyester blend that’s super soft. That said, for extra longevity, it’s recommended to lay a towel over the mat before use to keep the mat dry and clean. The layer directly under the cover is waterproof so no worries if the surface does get wet. Under that is 6.5 lbs of high grade natural amethyst, which is known to have more healing benefits than jade that is found in other mats.
For peace of mind, you’ll be happy to know that the mat emits zero EMF which some lesser quality mats cannot claim. Also great is the 2-year warranty and a company that goes above and beyond with customer service (they’ll even refund you the full purchase price within 30 days). Ultimately, while both the MediCrystal and Charmed heating pads are great, we slightly prefer the controller on the MediCrystal and its additional waterproof cover.
If you’re looking for the best far infrared mat for sleeping, you can’t get much better than this 59″ x 24″ mat from Ereada. In addition to the already noted benefits of amethyst, the Ereada includes the added healing benefits of Pulsed Electro Magnetic Field (PEMF) therapy and red light photon therapy. It sounds gimmicky but there is some proof behind it.
With over 21 pounds of A+ grade tumbled natural amethyst as part of its 17 layers, this is much heavier mat than the “mini” models above. But with about 120% more mat surface area, you’ll get much better pain relief for larger areas. Ereada claims the infrared heat will penetrate up to 8 inches deep into the body.
If price weren’t a factor, this one might be at the top of our list. When looking at any of these infrared mats, you really do have to look at them as investments in your health. When we go to a doctor or physical therapist for pain relief, we don’t bat an eye at spending a few hundred dollars. What if a one-time purchase could prevent future visits to see a professional?
Electric Heating Pad Reviews
We talk about the advantages of moist heat further down. The Thermophore MaxHEAT Automatic Moist Heat Pack (in the large size) delivers just what you need. There’s no need to add any water in order to produce the type of heat that will get a little deeper in those tired, aching muscles and joints.
All you need to do is use the controls to activate the heat pack and enjoy the benefits for hours. There’s even a timer built into the controls so you don’t have to be concerned about leaving it on your back, neck, or leg for too long.
Unlike the previous version of this top-selling model, this heating pad offers you three different settings. That makes it easier to choose the one that’s just right. Once you choose the setting, the pack will maintain a constant temperature until the timer shuts it off or you choose to change the setting. This just makes the best electric heating pad even better.
If you’ve ever tried heat packs before and noticed they are a pain to clean, you’re in luck. The fleece pad can be machine-washed if the need arises.
In terms of size, the pad is large enough (~14″ x 17″) to cover your lower back, but small enough to not feel as if you’re wearing a stole if you want to use it for neck pain. It will also rest easily on the back of your leg if you happen to pull a muscle.
Many users are impressed with how quickly the pack heats up. That comes in handy when you need relief FAST. The quick response also means that if you try a higher setting first and it is a little too much, the pad will cool down quickly when you switch to a lower setting.
Some have expressed wishes that the timer could be set for a longer period of time. Keep in mind that if needed, it’s easy enough to leave the pack off for a few minutes and then start another round.
Sunbeam is likely a brand you’re already familiar with, and this pack is made with the same attention to quality that is found with all of the company’s products. This one wraps comfortably around your body for a snug fit.
Wearing the pack is not difficult at all. In fact, the design is one of the most comfortable on the market. Velcro straps extend up to 70 inches to make it easy to adjust the fit and still keep the hot or cold pack exactly where you need it to be.
Another advantage of this pack is that the material is soft to the touch. There will be no chaffing while you wear it. Since it will conform to the contours of your body, you won’t feel as if you’re wearing a tire around your middle. The material is also machine washable, making it easy to keep the pack clean.
If you need relief but can’t stay in one place, this pack design allows you to slip the hot or cold pads in position and go wherever you need to go. This can be especially helpful for someone who needs to go on a trip and would love to not deal with nagging back pain along the way.
At home, there is a nine-foot cord that allows you to plug in the hot pad and use it while you watch television.
If you like the idea of something that won’t automatically shut off after 20 minutes, this hot and cold pack will keep going for two hours before the timer shuts down the unit. That’s good news if you’re driving and don’t want the distraction of having to start the process up again every so often.
Some users have noted that the high heat setting is really hot compared to similar products. Try using the medium setting first and see how it feels. You may find that it’s just right and will be the only heat pad for back pain you’ll ever need.
How would you like a back heating pad that drapes over your shoulders like a shawl and allows you to move your arms freely? The Sunbeam XL Renue will do just that. The snap enclosures found in the design make it easy for you to adjust it to fit your body perfectly. Since the wrap does fit over the shoulders, it will serve as a neck heating pad as well as getting rid of the stiffness in your upper back.
The digital controller comes with four different heat settings. That makes it easy to find the one that provides the relief you crave. Since Sunbeam heating pads in general tend to heat up quickly, you won’t have to wait long to feel the difference.
You’ll also like the fact that the wrap includes a 9 foot cord that you makes it easy to plug in the unit and settle onto the sofa, in your favorite chair, or any other area of the home you like. As is true with other Sunbeam heating products, this device is equipped with an automatic timer that will shut off after two hours.
While you may think of this as being mainly for your upper back, neck, and shoulders, the size of this extra large heating pad (25″ x 25″) makes it ideal for resting on your lower back if necessary. The material is soft enough to fit around your leg if that’s where the pain happens to be.
Fresh out of the box, you may notice a strong chemical smell. While non-toxic, it isn’t pleasant. Fortunately, the smell goes away on its own after 2-3 days of airing it out or simply washing it (it’s machine washable). That will be enough to get rid of the smell and be able to enjoy the benefits without putting a clothespin on your nose.
Whether you choose to go with an electric heat pad or something that makes use of infrared heat, the goal is to get rid of the pain.
First decide on the type of heat that’s best for you, and then choose a product that provides it. While a heating pad alone will not completely rid all types of back pain, it’s a safe, inexpensive option that works well as part of a treatment plan which may also include physical therapy and medication.
What Does a Heating Pad Do?
Heating pads of all types work by delivering heat to muscles that are stiff, strained, spasmed, or cramped in some manner.
That heat helps to stimulate blood flow in the area. Efficient blood flow makes it easier for the tissue to receive the nutrients needed to promote heating and help muscles relax and dull the pain.
- Far infrared heating pads are more expensive but the heat will penetrate further under your skin for better, longer-lasting relief.
- Traditional electric heating pads are inexpensive and can offer some quick pain relief but simply won’t penetrate deep enough for some pain.
The key to success is knowing how long to leave the pad in place. Depending on how the heat is generated, the pad may only offer comfort as long as it’s in position. Chiropractors often use a combination of infrared heat followed up by a session on a wireless TENS unit to get the best results.
Infrared vs. Electric – Which is Best?
The kind of heat that your heating pad produces also makes a difference. The garden variety that you pick up at the local pharmacy will likely be an electric pad. The pad includes wires that heat up once you plug the unit into an outlet. Choose the setting and place it on your back. Remember that you need to lay on your stomach or at least be in a sitting position while using the pad.
One of the perks of the electric pad is that it’s so easy to find and it costs less than an infrared pad. If you only need to use it on your back or neck once in a while, this solution should work fine.
Infrared heating pads offer the advantage of heating deeper into the muscles and tissues. If your back is causing a great deal of pain due to muscle cramps or spasms, you need the heat to permeate all of the muscle tissue. That result is easier to achieve if you use an infrared pad.
Can a Heating Pad Get Too Hot?
One of the more common questions that first-time users ask has to do with the heat settings available on some types of pads. How hot do heating pads get? Can they get too hot? In general, the answer is no.
Heating pads that come with a limited number of settings are manufactured to reduce the potential for causing any type of adverse reaction, like burns to the skin. Keep in mind that while the pads are generally safe for use, it’s up to you to decide if the highest setting is too much for you.
A good rule of thumb is to try a lower setting first and see what happens. If you notice that the heat level is comfortable and those stiff back muscles are beginning to relax, you’ve found the right setting. Should you find that the setting isn’t doing much, try the next one in the sequence. It won’t take long to figure out how much heat does the job for you.
What is the Difference Between a Dry Heating Pad vs. Moist Heating Pad
You may find that dry heat seems to help ease the inflammation that builds up when you put too much stress on your back muscles. That’s because this type of heating pad will help to draw some of the excess fluid out of the muscles and ease the inflamed tissue.
For example, you tend to develop pain in the lower back when you sit at your desk most of the day. Along with keeping the blood flow efficient, removing the excess fluid will prevent the soreness that comes along with this type of strain.
Moist heat does get deeper into the tissues. It’s also superior in terms of promoting extra blood flow. You also don’t run the risk of drying out the skin when you use moist heat. You’ll find moist heat is especially helpful when you want to feel relief faster.
One thing to keep in mind is that even though moist heat produces results faster, the effect tends to last longer with dry heat. A moist pad will likely give you some comfort for a couple of hours. A dry pad can easily keep the pain at bay for twice that amount of time.
An infrared pad is less likely to cause any damage to the skin. In other words, the odds of sustaining any type of burn or drying out the skin are minimal. Some people would not think of using anything else.
One other benefit that you should keep in mind is that infrared heat tends to produce much longer lasting results. With electric pads, the relief begins to fade soon after you remove them. Since the heat from an infrared pad gets so deep into the tissue, you can expect the effect to last longer.
Like the electric heating pad, you don’t want to use the infrared pad for too long per session. Follow the instructions carefully or ask your doctor to help you set reasonable time limits for those sessions and ensure you don’t get too much of a good thing.