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A heating pad could be a good source of relief for sore necks and backs. Applying heat may help reduce pain in strained or overexerted muscles.

Making your own heating pad with materials around your home can be a quick and easy way to soothe your sore muscles and joints.

There are several ways to make one.

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

Towel compress 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.

Like most people, you probably have a drawer in your house for orphaned cotton socks. Well, now you can put those lonely socks to good use! If neck and shoulder pain are 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.

Sock compress 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 — anything you think will hold the rice in.
  2. Microwave on high for no more than 3 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.

Other methods

  • Fill a ziplock bag or sock with barley or oats, which will also hold heat well and mold to your body.
  • You can add dried herbs or florals like lavender for a relaxing scent.
  • You can make a reusable compress by sewing two rectangles of an old pillowcase or shirt, or scraps of fabric.

Making your own heating pad can be cost-efficient and safer than using an electric heating pad. If you’re feeling too sore to leave the house, it can also save you a trip to the store.

Schedule an appointment with your doctor if muscle and joint pain persists for several days.

A 2014 research review found that heating pads could help increase blood flow and decrease pain for muscular injury. A heating pad is often recommended for pain related to your:

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.

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.


An older 2003 research review involving people with osteoarthritis in the knee found that heated compresses can help:

  • improve flexibility
  • improve muscle strength
  • reduce pain
  • speed up walking pace
  • reduce swelling

A small 2014 study also found that heated compresses were effective in relieving back pain.

How long they last

A heating pad prepared in the microwave for 2 minutes should hold its heat for around 20 minutes.

You can take a break and then reheat and reapply if you would like more relief. Using heated compresses twice a day may help with soreness.

Be sure to follow the instructions for using your electric heating pad to prevent burns, electric shocks, and fire. Test how hot the pad is to the touch before applying to your body.

Never use a heating pad on

  • infants
  • pregnant people
  • people with diabetes
  • people who have had a stroke
  • anyone with a decreased ability to sense pain
  • people with hypothermia
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Heat therapy with a heating pad may help with muscle soreness and stiffness. A person can make a heating pad out of common household items.

Follow a doctor’s advice on how and when to use. Certain people should avoid using heating pads, including infants, pregnant people, and people with diabetes.