Making a heating pad at home

A heating pad is one of the best sources of relief for sore necks and backs. Applying heat can help reduce pain in strained or overexerted muscles. Making your own heating pad is a quick and easy way to soothe your sore muscles and joints with materials around your home. There are several ways to make one.

Why they work

The most important aspect of heat therapy is its ability to increase blood flow to the painful areas. Heat opens up blood vessels, which allows for blood and oxygen to flow more readily to the sore areas. Heat therapy tends to reduce muscle spasms as well, causing the muscles, ligaments, and tendons to relax.

Doctors sometimes recommend using heating pads for relief from menstrual cramps or urinary tract infections. In these cases, apply a heating pad to the abdomen.

Making your own: Method 1

Nathan Wei, MD, a board-certified rheumatologist and former head of the Arthritis Treatment Center in Maryland, offers a simple method for making your own heating pad. You’ll need:

  • two hand towels
  • a ziplock bag
  • a microwave

Step-by-step instructions

  1. Wet both towels with water. Squeeze out the excess water until they’re just damp.
  2. Put one towel in the ziplock bag, being sure to leave the bag open. Place the bag in the microwave and heat on high for 2 minutes.
  3. Remove the bag from the microwave. Be careful — it will be hot! Seal the ziplock bag, and wrap the other wet towel around the bag.
  4. Apply your homemade heating pad to the sore area. The heat should last about 20 minutes.

Making your own: Method 2

Like most people, you probably have a drawer in your house for orphaned socks. Well, now you can put those lonely socks to good use! If neck and shoulder pain is causing you trouble, all you need is a sock and some rice. This pad works best if you use a bigger sock, like a tube sock.

Step-by-step instructions

  1. Fill the sock with rice. Leave enough room at the top so you can close the opening by either sewing it shut or tying it with a rubber band or string — basically anything you think will hold the rice in.
  2. Microwave on high for 2 minutes.
  3. Remove from the microwave (again, be careful, it will be hot). Apply to your neck or shoulder. If you need more time once the heating pad has gone cold, microwave again for 1 minute and reapply.

Making your own heating pad is cost-efficient and safer than using an electric heating pad. It also saves you a trip to the store, when you’re too sore to leave the house. Schedule an appointment with your doctor if muscle and joint pain persists for several days.


Be sure to follow the instructions for using your electric heating pad to prevent burns, electric shocks, and fire. Never use a heating pad on:

  • infants
  • people with diabetes
  • people who have had a stroke
  • anyone with a decreased ability to sense pain