Why Heating Pads are Effective for Treating Pain

Heat therapy is popular even among people who have never heard of a heating pad. For a long time, people experiencing pain have had relief by using hot baths, hot water bottles and jacuzzis – all methods of thermotherapy. The application of heat is effective in combating menstrual cramps, backaches and joint and muscle pain.

It has been scientifically proven that when heat is used for post-exercise soreness, it reduces recovery significantly. The fact that heat penetrates deeper than the surface of application makes it possible for it to fix the muscles or tissues that are problematic.

How Does Heat Work to Reduce Pain?

How Does Heat Work to Reduce Pain

  • Heat helps in relaxing sore muscles and stretching soft tissues. By removing the kinks ad warming the tissues, flexibility is promoted, thereby decreasing pain.
  • When heat is applied to any problem spot, the feeling of pain reduces because heat works as a stimulant for the thermoreceptors. When theses receptors are activated, they inhibit the pain transmitters that send signals to the brain.
  • Heat encourages circulation in any area it is applied. Circulation ensures that the tissues receive more oxygen and nutrients.
  • Continuous heat, like heat applied for over 20 minutes, has been proven to ease sore muscles. It works even better when heating pads are used, as the users have the option of temperature control.
  • The application of heat has a psychological effect because it is reassuring. Reassurance, in itself, is a therapeutic analgesic.

Types of Heat

dry heat - moist heat

There are two variants of heat therapy: moist heat and dry heat. Essentially, both types of heat should be warm rather than scalding hot. This way side effects and injuries will be prevented.

1. Dry Heat

Dry heat is also commonly called conducted heat therapy. Sources of dry heat are dry heating packs and saunas. The merit of dry heat is that not only is it very easy to apply, it is also easy to move around.

2. Moist Heat

Moist heat is also known as convection heat therapy. It can be derived from sources like moist heating packs, steamed towels or hot baths. This type of heat therapy, especially hot baths, gears towards whole body therapy more than it does spot heating.

These Pains Respond Positively to Heat Therapy

Pains Respond Positively to Heat Therapy

1. Menstrual Cramps (Dysmenorrhea)

Period pains can come in crippling waves. This painful sensation is often felt in the lower abdomen of women during their menstrual period. Some cramps are light enough that they can be ignored, but many women complain of severe pain that may disrupt their lives. The pain can sometimes engulf the pelvis and the lower back. Over the counter painkillers can help with the cramps, but a heating pad can also be used to ease the pain.

For menstrual cramps, the heating pad should be placed on the abdomen or lower back, depending on where the pain originates from. The pain should dissipate in about 20 minutes.

2. Lower Back Pain

Pain in the lower back can range from mild to excruciating. Heat therapy helps to calm the muscle spasms and tightness in the lower back. Application of heat to the back will help in dilating the blood vessels near the lumbar spine. By so doing, oxygen and nutrients will be transmitted to the muscles and the damaged tissues will be repaired.

To treat lower back pain with heat, hold your heat source of choice to the affected area. Twenty minutes of heat application should do.

3. Post Exercise Soreness

Exercise induces microtears in the muscles, which in turn leads to fatigue and soreness. During exercise, muscles lengthen, resulting in microtears. Some exercises exert the muscles more than others. For example, running downhill and hiking cause more tension to the muscles than biking.

Muscle soreness can sometimes limit the prospects of exercising in the future, and it can also impede on normal everyday life. Applying heat to the affected area will soothe sore muscles and relax tightness that may be causing the pain. Also, heat will promote better blood flow to the area. Apply heat to the area for about 20 minutes and repeat as needed (there times a day max).

4. Stomachaches

Many things can be responsible for stomachaches. Some of the popular causes of stomach pain are constipation, menstrual cramps and other general causes. The application of heat can relax the muscles and relieve pain.

Simply apply the pad to the stomach area and let it sit for about 20 minutes.

Pain can make day to day living quite unpleasant. Most aches and pains can be combatted with painkillers, but when they are constant and not responding well to medication, heat therapy can be of great help.


Madison Brown received her graduate degree from the University of Iowa from the physical therapy program. As a therapist for over five years, she has treated many patients with pain or with many physical problems. Through her experience she has learned more along the way how to best serve her patients. Her patients come into her office with all sorts of pain from head to toe. She has always made it her goal to know all the latest techniques and devices to best treat the patient in front of her. She cares about people and works for the best for her patients.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 1 comments