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If you have frequent aches and pains, a heating pad is a useful item to have handy.

This is a form of heat therapy that uses heat to increase the blood flow to the affected area. You can experience similar relief when taking a hot, soothing bath.

“Heat often soothes muscles in pain by increasing circulation and helping muscles stretch,” explains Clearing chief medical officer and pain specialist, Dr. Jacob Hascalovici. Clearing is a digital healthcare platform for those with chronic pain.

A heating pad can be used to treat backaches, chronic neck and shoulder pain, and even period cramps.

One major perk is how portable they are. You can take your heating pad with you almost anywhere — to the bedroom, the couch, when traveling, and even in the car. Chiropractor Dr. Blessen Abraham likes that most heating pads are flexible, giving you the ability to wrap them around a joint.

But with so many heating pads on the market — all varying in size, shape, and heat generation method — it can be hard to choose one. Well, worry no more. This article will explore the best portable heating pads available to bring you one step closer to relief.

When looking for the best portable heating pads, we considered the following factors:

  • Size: We looked for adjustable products that fit all body sizes. These products also met the size criteria required for various parts of the body, such as those large enough to cover the back.
  • Cost: Most of the products on this list are under $50, as per the pricing guide below. We considered products that delivered results without breaking the bank.
  • Safety: Safety is of the utmost importance, so we chose products created by companies that prioritize safety for their customers.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $30
  • $$ = $30–$50
  • $$$ = over $50

Best overall

Pure Enrichment PureRelief XL Electric Heating Pad

Price: $$

This top-rated heating pad is backed by a lot of praise.

Customers love that it comes with six heating temperatures (most pads only contain up to three) and that it heats up quickly. It can be used for backaches, sore muscles, and cramps. “Purchased this after being in agony for 5 days. Relief was instant on my lower back strained muscles,” one wrote. Another wrote that it helped them with their pain from fibromyalgia.

It comes loaded with features built for comfort and functionality. This includes an extra-long cord, so you’re not restricted to sitting near an outlet, microplush material, and a 2-hour auto-shutoff feature.

Pros

  • This heating pad is highly rated (4.5 out of 5 stars from nearly 60,000 customer reviews).
  • It comes with an extra-long 9-foot power cord.
  • It has a 2-hour auto-shutoff feature.

Cons

  • Some reviewers claim the pad does not get hot enough.
  • Other reviewers claim the pad stops working within a year of purchase.

Best budget

Sunbeam XpressHeat Heating Pad, Extra Large

Price: $$

With over 19,000 reviews, this is one of Amazon’s bestselling heating pads. It’s king-size, which makes it big enough to cover various areas of the body, such as the back. There are six heat settings to choose from and the option of moist heat since it comes with a sponge. The controller is designed for easy use by those with arthritis.

It’s an affordable buy that doesn’t skimp on results.

Pros

  • This heating pad heats up in 30 seconds.
  • You can select auto-shutoff or keep the blanket on.
  • It comes with an extra-long 9-foot power cord.

Cons

  • A recent review mentioned that the pad did not get hot enough and could not be returned or exchanged.
  • Several reviews indicate the product may stop working within a year of purchase.

Best for back pain

Mighty Bliss Large Electric Heating Pad

Price: $$

Sore back? You’ll be in good hands with this heating pad that has over 81,922 reviews on Amazon. It heats up quickly and lets you choose from low, medium, and high heat settings from its control panel. Out of these reviews, 79 percent of users gave it 5 stars, with one writing, “This Mighty Bliss heating pad really has improved my neck and shoulder pain significantly, as I’ve been able to go much longer between chiropractor appointments!”

The pad is made with high quality microplush fibers that are machine washable and built to last. It also comes with a lifetime warranty, so you can rest easy knowing that pain relief is guaranteed for years to come.

Pros

  • This heating pad comes with a lifetime warranty.
  • It has an auto-protection feature that’s designed to prevent overheating.
  • You can use it dry or moist.

Cons

  • Some reviewers claim the pad does not get hot enough.
  • Other reviewers claim the pad does not work very long.

Best for full body

Sunbeam King Size Heating Pad with Moist Heat Sponge

Price: $$

During your search, you might come across heating pads with dry heat versus moist heat. Moist heat is when you add some type of moisture to your heating pad, usually with a sponge. This helps the heat penetrate the skin and tissue better. It’s also less likely to dehydrate the skin, says Abraham.

Many experts prefer moist heat to dry heat, which is why this Sunbeam heating pad is one of Abraham’s top choices. It has four heat settings. It also has an auto-shutoff feature after 2 hours. The sponge and the cover are machine washable. One major downside is some say that it takes a while to heat up.

Pros

  • You can use this heating pad dry or moist.
  • It comes with an extra-long 9-foot power cord.
  • It has a 2-hour auto-shutoff feature.

Cons

  • Several reviews say the pad is stiff and not comfortable.
  • Other reviews mention that the product does not last very long.

Best for targeted heat therapy

Sunbeam GoHeat Portable Heated Patches

Price: $$$

When you’re looking to target specific areas of your body, these portable patches from Sunbeam can help. You attach the patches to the skin, choose one of three heat settings, and enjoy the heat for up to 8 hours.

Unlike other heating patches on the market, these patches are rechargeable, so you can enjoy them again and again. Although, some customers have expressed concern about the patches taking a while to charge.

Pros

  • These heated patches are rechargeable.
  • They’re portable, offering targeted heat.
  • They provide up to 8 hours of heat.

Cons

  • They have a higher price point compared with similar heating products.
  • Some reviewers say the adhesive pads wear out quickly.

Best for period cramps

GENIANI Extra Large Electric Heating Pad

Price: $$

Pain relief is essential when it’s that time of the month. This heating pad by GENIANI aims to end unbearable cramps — fast — with three levels of heat therapy. This includes the option of moist heat. There’s also an auto-shutoff after 2 hours in case you fall asleep.

The reviews are mostly positive, with some customers calling it the best heating pad they’ve ever had. They also love the extra-long extension cord.

Pros

  • You can use this heating pad dry or moist.
  • It comes with a 3-year warranty.
  • It heats up in less than 30 seconds.

Cons

  • Several reviewers claim the pad does not stay hot for very long.

Best microwaveable

Soothing Company Extra Large Heating Pad

Price: $$

Don’t want to bother with cords? Try this microwavable heating pad from Soothing Company. The heat lasts up to 20 minutes (although some customers say that it lasted longer, upwards of 45 minutes).

The soft fleece material makes it feel like a warm hug engulfing your body and the curved shape of the pad fits snugly around your neck, shoulders, and mid-to-lower back. You don’t have to worry about it falling off, either, as there are wraps that you fasten around your body. Just be sure to follow directions, as some customers noticed a burning smell when they left it for too long in the microwave.

Pros

  • This heating pad is cordless and microwaveable.
  • It’s flexible.
  • You can freeze it and use it for cool therapy.

Cons

  • It burns easily if microwaved for longer than instructed (30-second intervals).
  • Burned product emits unpleasant odor.
  • Some reviewers say the pad is heavy.

Best for joint pain

Sunbeam Flexfit Heating Pad Wrap

Price: $$

Unlike traditional heating pads, this Sunbeam pad offers a flexible design. This provides targeted heat therapy to the joint, such as on the arm, elbow, ankle, and lower leg. Everything stays in place, thanks to the elastic ends that fasten. Meanwhile, the 9-inch cord makes it easy to move the heating pad around with you.

One reviewer with tennis elbow said they purchased it after basic heating pads weren’t cutting it. “So far, I’m loving it and super happy with my purchase. Heats up really well and wraps nice and tight.” But since the heating pad is targeted for joint pain, you will likely still require a traditional pad for other aches.

Pros

  • This heating pad wrap is flexible, offering targeted heat.
  • You can use it dry or moist.
  • It comes with an extra-long 9-foot power cord.

Cons

  • Some reviewers say the pad does not get hot enough.
  • Other reviewers say the pad burned their skin.

While heating pads are an effective pain management tool, they can turn dangerous when used improperly. Here are a few do’s and don’ts to avoid injury.

Do

  • Start on the lowest heat level and slowly increase the heat intensity.
  • Be sure the heating pad is in good condition. For example, make sure that the cover is not ripped and wires are not exposed.
  • Be aware of whether the heating pad will turn off automatically. “Some heating pads are programmed to shut themselves off after a certain amount of time or if they don’t detect motion to help prevent burns to the skin,” says Hascalovici.

Don’t

  • Don’t use the heating pad on an acute injury or swelling.
  • Don’t put the heating pad directly on the skin for more than 20 minutes. “Especially if you have diabetes or some other nerve issue — you may be less sensitive to heat, which could cause burns,” Abraham says.
  • Don’t use heating pads with swollen, broken, or irritated skin.
  • Don’t combine heat pads with pain cream.
  • If you’re pregnant, don’t use a heating pad on your abdomen.

Heating pads come in a wide variety of forms, each with its unique selling point. Place your specific needs first when you choose a heating pad.

You might ask yourself:

  • Where is my pain located?
  • Do I want dry heat or moist heat?
  • Do I need multiple heat settings for different temperatures of heat therapy?
  • Do I need an extra-long power cord?
  • Do I need a flexible heat pad?
  • Do I need a targeted heat pad?
  • Do I want an auto-shutoff heat pad? etc…

If you’re treating local aches or pains, targeted heat pads allow you to place the heat on a specific part of the body for maximum ease of use.

Some heat blankets can make it difficult to isolate and treat joint pain. But with flexible heat wraps, you can fasten the wrap to areas like the arm, elbow, ankle, and lower leg. If your pain or stiffness is more widespread — like back pain — an extra-large heating pad covers more area.

Talk with a doctor if you have frequent or chronic pain. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a healthcare professional can help you:

  • create a plan and you stick to it
  • set goals and support you in reaching them as you move toward returning to your typical activity level
  • help you find a low risk relief option.

They may recommend an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever like acetaminophen. Other non-opioid relief options might include acupuncture, exercise, or massage therapy.

Remember, while at-home care is an option, you don’t have to self-treat your pain. Talk with a healthcare professional about pain relief options.

When should you not use a heating pad?

Do not apply a heating pad to an acute injury, swelling, an open wound, or use it with pain cream. If you are pregnant, do not apply a heating pad to your abdomen.

Notably, some people with preexisting conditions — like diabetes, dermatitis, deep vein thrombosis, and multiple sclerosis (MS) — may be at higher risk of burns and should avoid heat therapies like heating pads.

Can you use heating pads too much?

Yes. Placing a heating pad directly on your skin for anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes at a high setting may result in a burn.

Is it OK to sleep with a heating pad on?

No. Sleeping with a heating pad on can increase your risk of burns. The Electrical Safety Foundation International does not recommend using heating pads during sleep because it is a fire hazard.

A heating pad can be a good way to manage back and neck pain, as well as cramps. Do not use a heating pad on bare skin, and do not use overnight. Portable heating pads, whether a blanket or wrap, may assist with pain reduction in addition to taking pain reliever, exercising, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.