For some, it’s all too frequent to experience back or shoulder pain while going about your regular routine. Back pain or shoulder pain are common and very inconvenient. As part of healing process, your doctor may prescribe some heat therapy through use of heat pads to get relief from sore muscles or spasms which cause pain. What are the various kinds of heat pads ? Are these heat pads really effective ? How does heat pad work in reducing the pain? Read more to find out…
What is available online in India?
In the online market, there is a range of heating pads available at various price points for all kinds of common back pain, shoulder pain or neck pain. You can use these to get relief from various pains.
Most of heat pads available in the market are portable and you can carry wherever you go and use them. When you buy online, be sure to check the size and shape of heat pads. You should note that some pads serve some specific part of your body, such as back, neck or shoulder, knee joint or leg. Often, they are multi-purpose as well.
What is a Heating Pad? Do heat pads work? Are they effective?
Many times, pain occurs in your body due to too much of work or strain with the body muscles, or due to old age arthritis conditions. This creates tension in the muscles and soft tissues, which in turn restricts flow of blood to these parts. This leads to sensation of pain by our nervous system.
A heat pad is used for light warming of those parts of your body so as to reduce pain. When you apply heat to affected part such as back or shoulder, it leads to expansion of blood vessels. Then blood easily flows into this area, thus lessening the pain.
More blood flow carries additional nutrients and oxygen to the area, treating the affected muscles and reducing the pain.
When you warm the body part, you get increased flexibility and reduced muscle stiffness. Hence, you feel less pain.
Depending upon your specific case, doctors may recommend ice pack for pain relief. If you are wondering if you should use heat or cold pack, please read our article on the subject.
What are Various Types of Heating Pads?
Most commonly used heat pads fall into 4 broad types: Electrical heating pad, Chemical heat pad, Microwavable Heat Pad and Hot Water Bottle or Bags. While all serve the purpose of reducing a pain, you should know about various types before you go about purchasing one.
Electrical heat pads – As the name suggests, you can heat this pad with electric current by plugging into household sockets. After few minutes, the pad gets heated and you can use the same. Good electrical pads should not overheat and must come with protection from any shock. Most of the common pain can be relieved by these simple electrical heating pads, which come in a range of affordable prices for Indian consumers.
In electrical heat pad category, there is a variation of moist heating pad. Certain types of pain may require deep tissue treatment. You may be advised as such by your doctor or physio therapist. These pads carry high temperatures from 76 °C to 82 °C and are generally used by physio therapists. You should rather avoid using this deep moist heat treatment at home by yourself.
If interested in buying a typical electric heat pad, do check out the following products online:-
When to use Dry vs Moist Heat Pads?
Most of the electric heating pads produce dry heat and can draw out all the moisture from the body area. This may lead to excessive dehydration and scorching of the skin. Moist heat pad or heated wet towels help in better penetration of heat into the body area afflicted with pain. Therefore, moist heat pad provides better relief and is more suitable when the pain is more acute.
For mild pain however, you can use dry heat for short duration of time. It is best to take out such heat pads if you experience scorching feel or excessive dryness.
What are chemical heat pads ?
There are two types of chemical heat pads: Disposable and Reusable.
Reusable pads: The most common chemical heat pads are reusable. They contain a supersaturated chemical solution of sodium acetate in water. There is a small flat metal disc embedded inside the heat pack. When you squeeze this disc, the chemical solution inside the pack gets heated up due to chemical reaction. This reaction produces energy and thereby heat.
You can use reuse this pad by placing the heat pack in boiling water for 10–15 minutes and then take out and cool it down to room temperature. When you need to use this again, you just need to press the metal disc and the pack gets heated for use.
Disposable chemical pads: You can generally use these for warming your hands/ palms in extreme cold weather or even applying to specific areas of body. These chemical pads are air tight packets containing slight moist iron power and a kind of salt or a chemical catalyst. A chemical catalyst is a substance that triggers or helps a chemical reaction. When you open the airtight packet, the iron power reacts with the oxygen present in the air, producing heat. These are very convenient heat patches and can be used for multiple purposes.
Microwavable heat pad
You can use a microwavable pad by placing it in a microwave oven. These are usually made of thick insulating fabric such as flannel and filled with grains such as wheat, flax seeds or rice. These are easy to make and can be stitched by hand as well. They can be customized as per different parts of the body. Usually you will have to heat the product in the microwave for couple of minutes and then use. One good product available online in this category is :-
Aromatic / Herbal Pads : These are a variation of microwavable heat pads in which certain aromatic chemicals are mixed with the filler material. When heated, you will get a soothing and pleasant smell from the pad. The aromatic chemical or smell can come from essential oils, dried rose or lavender petals. Sometimes the aromatic mix can be few herbal ingredients such as spices like Nutmeg, Cloves or Cinnamon, Lemongrass, Peppermint etc. . These can seep into your skin and tissues bringing relief from muscle / cramp pain.
Hot Water bottles or bags
A simple yet very effective heat pad is a bag filled with hot water or liquid which can retain heat for long period of time. This is called a hot water bag or bottle. Typically, the material is high quality rubber or plastic, which can sustain good heat. You can fill ice –chilled water inside such a bag and use as an ice pack. So this simple product can double up on its use!
Other affordable and durable products which are widely used and available in India are hot water bags from Duckback and Dr. Morepen. You can buy this online here.
Why not gift a heat pad to your elderly loved ones?
While you can use this at home for your own use, this can be a good companion for an elderly person also. Often, your elderly parents and relatives may have complaints of minor back pain, neck pain or shoulder pain due to old age arthritis. For some, this pain occurs rather more frequently during winter or in cold weather.
A good heat pad can certainly help them get relief. So go ahead and buy a heat pad as a gift for your elderly parents or relatives, who can use the product to get rid of many common pain problems associated with old age, arthritis conditions, pain due to cold, fatigue or muscle cramps etc.
When to visit a doctor
If the pain persists, Or the affected body area seems damaged Or you have just experienced an injury from fall or impact, then you are clearly having acute or high intensity pain. This can even spread into legs, thighs or hips; then, it is time for you to see a doctor. You can see preferably a specialist in medicine or an orthopedist and not rely on a heat pad.
Please note that heat pad can relieve you from only minor regular everyday pain due to muscle strains or spasms. When in doubt regarding use of any personal medical device, please do consult your family doctor or physician for advice and also know in detail about the kind of heat pad that you should be using.
Heat treatment has been known for long to reduce pain in various body areas such as shoulders, back, knees etc. There are many types of heat pads available commercially in Indian online market. We have covered most aspects of heat pads in our article here, so that you can buy the right heat pad for your particular need.