Best Heating Pad for Pain Relief: A Buyer’s Guide

Muscle cramps can seemingly strike out of nowhere, affecting your lower back, calves, or upper back and neck. But a heating pad can melt that pain away and help your muscles relax. Keep reading for the best heating pads for pain relief, including back pain, neck pain and pregnancy.

Using a Heating Pad for Cramps

Sometimes called muscle spasms, cramps can result from a number of problems, such as a pulled muscle, dehydration, chronic poor posture, stress, or muscle overuse. Moreover, the body will automatically stiffen muscles in response to pain, so chronic pain may worsen muscle cramps, in a positive feedback loop with a pretty negative outcome.

A heating pad can break this cycle of tension and pain by helping cramped muscles relax. Through vasodilation, heat therapy widens blood vessels to increase blood flow, flushing the muscle with fresh oxygen while stimulating nerve endings to mask pain. This increased blood flow can also ease joint stiffness and relax muscle contractions.

But heat isn’t beneficial in every case. Sharp, acute pain from a recent injury is best treated with ice, not heat. You also shouldn’t use heat on an open wound or if you have circulatory problems or sensitivity issues such as neuropathy. Check with your physician before using a heating pad.

Top Heating Pads for Pain Relief

When cramps strike, a heating pad can be your best defense. Most are large enough to relieve back pain but still useful for smaller areas such as the shoulder, foot, calf, leg, and neck or shoulders. 

The following 4 heating pads are best rated for general use. I’ll give you the typical store price, but you can find most of them for much cheaper from online retailers. 

iReliev Ultra-Soft Electric Heating Pad

ireliev heating pad
  • Features: 
    • 6 timer settings, from 15–120 minutes
    • 6 heat settings, from 113–158ºF
    • 2-hr auto shutoff
  • Specs:
    • 24” x 12”, machine washable
    • Includes bag and detachable remote
    • 2-year warranty
  • Retails for $50
sunbeam heating pad

SunBeam Heating Pad

  • Features:
    • 4 heat settings
    • 2-hr auto shutoff
  • Specs:
    • 24” x 20”, machine washable
    • 9-ft cord and detachable remote
    • 5-year limited warranty
  • Retails for $50

Pure Enrichment Heating Pad

pure enrichment heating pad
  • Features:
    • 6 heat settings, from 105–140ºF
    • 2-hr auto shutoff
  • Specs:
    • 24” x 12”, machine washable
    • 9-ft cord and detachable remote
    • 5-year warranty
  • Retails for $40

Geniani Heating Pad for Cramps

heating pad for cramps
  • Features:
    • 3 heat settings that warm up in 30 seconds
    • 2-hr auto shutoff
  • Specs:
    • 24” x 12”, machine washable
    • 10-ft cord and detachable remote
    • 3-year warranty
  • Retails for $37

Weighted Blanket Heating Pad

For the benefits of thermotherapy with the comfort of compression, consider buying a weighted heating pad, like this one from iReliev:

ireliev weighted heating pad

iReliev Weighted Heating Pad

  • Features
    • 3lbs of weight
    • 3 heat settings, from 95º–149ºF
  • Specs
    • 24” x 12”, machine washable
    • Includes bag and detachable remote
    • 2-year warranty
  • Retails for $70

Heating Pad with Massager

When it comes to pain relief, you don’t have to choose between heat therapy and massage therapy. The following two products offer the best of both worlds: a pillow massager that heats up, or a weighted blanket with vibration massagers embedded. Either one will help your stiff, cramped muscles relax; just expect to pay a little more for the double feature.

ireliev pillow massager with heat

iReliev Relaxable Pillow Massager with Heat

  • Features
    • Two-way kneading massagers
    • Infrared ceramic bulbs for heat
    • 10-min auto shutoff
  • Specs
    • 12” x 17”, available in 4 colors
    • Leather version available in 5 colors
    • Rechargeable battery (no cord)
    • 2-year warranty
  • Retails for $130
homedics heating pad with massager

Homedics Weighted Heating Pad with Vibration Massager

  • Features
    • 4-lb weight with vibration massagers
    • 3 heat settings
    • 2-hr auto shutoff
  • Specs
    • 24” x 12”, hand-washable
    • 12-ft cord and detachable remote
  • Retails for $70

Microwaveable Heat Pack

It’s hard to beat the convenience of microwaveable heat. This simple heat pack from iReliev can go right in the microwave, providing your muscle cramps cordless heat in mere seconds. You can even pop it in the freezer for cold therapy whenever you have acute pain. 

microwaveable heating pad

iReliev Hot/Cold Microwaveable Pad 

  • Features
    • Microwaveable and freezable
    • Cordless
    • Flexible when frozen
  • Specs
    • 3 sizes: 5” x 10”, 7.5” x 11”, and 11” x 14”
    • Includes velcro straps
  • Retails for $20–25

Neck Heating Pads

Some heating pads sport a unique, curved design that hugs the shoulders and neck. If you want to target neck pain without the bulk of a conventional heating pad, check out one of the following options. 

iReliev Neck Heating Pad and Massager

neck massager

It looks over the top, but the shawl-like design of this neck massager brings relief right where you need it most. 

  • Features
    • 3 massage modes, plus heat setting
    • 3 intensity levels
    • 20 bidirectional massage nodes
  • Specs
    • Rechargeable battery; no wires
    • Includes travel bag and charger
  • Retails for $130

Comfytemp Weighted Heating Pad for Neck and Shoulders

comfy temp neck massager

This crossover of a weighted blanket and heating pad is designed to lay squarely on your shoulders, offering a comfy combo of heat and compression.

  • Features
    • 2.2lbs of weight
    • 9 heat settings
    • 11 timer settings, from .5–9hrs. 
  • Specs
    • 22” x 19”, machine washable
    • 9.5-ft cord with detachable, backlit remote
    • Smaller size and lighter weight available
  • Retails for $50

Pure Enrichment Neck and Shoulder Heating Pad

neck and shoulder heating pad

The velvety “micromink” fabric of this neck heating pad will make pain relief feel like luxury. You’ll enjoy a secure fit thanks to its snug contour, plush fill, and magnetic closures. 

  • Features                                           ​​
    • 4 heat settings
    • 2-hr auto shutoff
    • Magnetic neck closure for snug fit
  • Specs
    • Machine washable
    • Includes storage bag and detachable remote
    • 5-yr warranty
  • Retails for $60

Best Pregnancy Heating Pad

Can you use a heating pad while pregnant? Generally, yes—but you should limit its use to 20 minutes. The back support heating pads from Kindred Bravely, detailed below, were a great help to my wife this past year.

pregnancy heating pad

Kindred Bravely Pregnancy Heating Pad

  • Features
    • Belly band with back support
    • Includes pocket for gel pack
    • Microwaveable and freezable
  • Specs
    • Soft fabric with velcro enclosure
    • Available in 3 sizes, hand washable
  • Retails for $60

How to Use Heat Therapy Safely 

Before you go, I want to remind you of some safety precautions for using heat therapy, whether it’s a heating pad, heat wrap, or hot water bottle:

  • Always keep a barrier between your skin and the heat source.
  • Check your skin regularly and watch for burns.
  • Don’t use heat on an open wound or cancerous spots, past or present.
  • Always use a timer and keep therapy sessions brief.
  • Never fall asleep while using a heating pad.

It’s important to use heat therapy safely and appropriately. If you apply heat to an acute injury too soon, you may actually worsen the symptoms. Keeping therapy sessions brief can help prevent burns and skin damage.

While heat therapy can work wonders in the short-term, it won’t fix chronic pain. So if your muscle cramps are a result of poor posture, these exercises and stretches can help you straighten up for long-term relief. 

Tim Fraticelli DPT, MBA, CFP®

Tim Fraticelli is a Physical Therapist, Certified Financial Planner™ and founder of PTProgress.com. He loves to teach PTs and OTs ways to save time and money in and out of the clinic, especially when it comes to documentation or continuing education. Follow him on YouTube for weekly videos on ways to improve your financial health.