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A heating pad is great for a lot of things, including time-of-the-month cramps, swelling from an injury, sore muscles from working out, a stiff neck from slouching over your laptop, lower back pain, and even achy feet. "Heat in any form—warm bath, hot water bottle, sauna, jacuzzi—all help by increasing blood flow and relaxing the muscles in the affected area," says Dr. Sherry Ross (aka "Dr. Sherry"), an OB/GYN and women's health expert based in Santa Monica. "Also, heat has an analgesic (feel good) effect!"
Therapeutic heating devices have come a long way from their hot water bottle roots. You'll find various plug-in models with adjustable temps, wearable designs, microwavable options, vibrating and massaging models, and even weighted pads.
So without further ado, these are the best heating pads available today.
Best Overall: Pure Enrichment PureRelief XL Electric Heating Pad
Relatively short power cord
For an all-around awesome heating pad that can be used virtually anywhere on the body, your best bet is Pure Enrichment's PureRelief XL. At 12 x 24 inches, it's one of the larger options you'll find, which allows you to wrap it over your back, shoulders, arms, abdomen, calves, you name it.
This plug-in thermotherapy device has an LCD controller with six temperature settings. It boasts super-fast (almost instantaneous) heating and gives you the option of dry or moist therapy. We also appreciate that the ultra-soft microfiber cover is machine washable.
Size: 12 x 24 inches | Features: Six heat settings, LCD controller, dry/moist therapy, auto-shutoff
Best Budget: Sunbeam Heating Pad for Pain Relief
9-foot power cord
Relatively small size
Looking for a budget-friendly option? You can't go wrong with Sunbeam. This electric heating pad has three temperature settings, a user-friendly controller, a washable cover, and an extra-long power cord.
Size: 12 x 15 inches | Features: Auto-shutoff, three heat settings
Best for Menstrual Cramps: Voligo Menstrual Heating Pad
Good for menstrual cramps
High setting is extremely hot
Cramps can be the worst, but with this heating pad on hand, you can count on relief. It generates far-infrared therapy and has an optional vibrational massage mode. What's more, the belt-style device heats up in three seconds flat and can be used on your lower abdomen or back.
Size: 4.5 x 9 inches | Features: Rechargeable battery, massage function
Best for Teens: Urban Outfitters Huggable Uterus Cooling + Heating Pad
Good for menstrual cramps
Not machine washable
We highly recommend the adorable yet effective Huggable Uterus from Urban Outfitters. Designed for period cramps or everyday relaxation, this plushie-style heating pad is filled with dried buckwheat and lavender. Pop it in the microwave for warmth or freeze it when you need a cold compress.
Size: 11.5 x 8.25 inches | Features: Warm/cool options
Best for Sore Muscles: Sharper Image Infrared Heating Pad
Sore muscles? You won't regret ordering the Infrared Heating Pad from Sharper Image. Measuring 35 x 27 inches, it's notably large and has a soft, cozy cover. We also like that it uses far-infrared technology, so it gets deep into your muscle tissues but is never hot to the touch.
Size: 27 x 35 inches | Features: Auto-shutoff, three heat settings
Best for Back Pain: Geniani Extra Large Heating Pad for Back Pain Relief
May not get hot enough for some people
Whether it's chronic or occasional, back pain can be a real drag. With that said, this sizable heating pad from Geniani can provide the relief you crave. It heats up in 30 seconds to your choice of three temps, and the soft cover is embedded with copper wires to ensure safety.
Size: 12 x 24 inches | Features: Dry/moist heat therapy, auto-shutoff
Best for Neck: My Heating Pad Microwavable Multi Purpose Wrap
Begins to smell after continuous microwaving
Anyone suffering from a stiff neck (um, hi) will be glad to have this microwavable wrap in their arsenal. This long, narrow thermotherapy companion is essentially a smooth fabric sleeve filled with rice. But don't let the low-tech design deter you—it does wonders for neck pain.
Size: 26.5 x 4.5 inches | Features: Handles
Best for Feet: Healthyline Tao Mat Small 1818 Soft Inframat Pro
Give your puppies a break with the Healthyline Tao Mat. This high-tech warming device contains natural gemstones and boasts patented far-infrared technology with negative ions. Basically, this means it safely, effectively, efficiently increases blood flow to your feet.
Size: 18 x 18 inches | Features: Adjustable temperature, negative ions
Best Wearable: Comfytemp Weighted Heating Pad for Neck and Shoulders
9.5-foot power cord
Not a universal fit
Want something you can wear while working or watching your favorite show? Go with the Comfytemp Heating Pad. This hands-free device is weighted with glass beads to offer gentle yet comforting warming compression on your back and shoulders.
Size: 19 x 22 inches | Features: Nine heat settings, auto-shutoff
Best Microwavable: Solayman's Microwave Heating Pad for Neck and Shoulders
Smaller than it looks online
We're also big fans of Solayman's Microwave Heating Pad. With a soft cover and a buckwheat-flaxseed fill, you can find relief from aches and pains the natural way. Just nuke it for a minute or two, then apply it to any inflamed areas.
Size: 14 x 5.5 inches | Features: Warm/cool therapy, buckwheat/flaxseed fill
Best Portable: Sunbeam GoHeat USB Powered Heating Pad
Machine-washable cover and straps
Must be plugged in at all times
Sunbeam makes some of the best heating pads on the market. Case in point: the GoHeat. This USB-powered device goes on like a belt to offer hands-free heat therapy anytime, anywhere.
Size: 12.5 x 7.5 inches | Features: USB power source, extension cord, auto-shutoff
Best with Moist Therapy: Mighty Bliss Electric Heating Pad
May not get hot enough for some people
This large heating pad from Mighty Bliss allows you to use dry or moist thermotherapy. For the latter, dampen the surface with a spray bottle, sponge, or wet cloth. Then turn it on as you normally would and relax into the cozy warmth.
Size: 12 x 24 inches | Features: Moist/dry therapy, auto-shutoff
Best Weighted: Sharper Image Calming Heat 12-Setting XXL Weighted Heating Pad
9-foot power cord
Lots of settings
The best weighted option is undoubtedly the Calming Heat model from Sharper Image. Not only does it provide 5 pounds of gentle pressure and deep penetrative heat, but it also has a soothing vibrational massage mode.
Size: 24 x 20 inches | Features: Auto-shutoff, 12 settings, massage function
The best heating pad overall is definitely the Pure Enrichment PureRelief XL Electric Heating Pad on account of its large size, ultra-soft washable cover, six temperature settings, and quick-heating technology. That said, if you want a microwaveable option instead of something that plugs in, your best bet is Solayman's Microwave Heating Pad for Neck and Shoulders.
What to Look For in a Heating Pad
There are a few different kinds of heating pads on the market. The most popular type is the electric model, which typically plugs into the wall and has a handheld controller with at least three heat settings. Among electric heating pads, you'll find weighted and massaging options, as well as hands-free and wearable designs.
Then you've got microwavable heating pads, which are usually filled with rice, buckwheat, or sometimes flaxseed. This type doesn't have a power cord and can be warmed up in the microwave or cooled off in the freezer.
When shopping around for a heating pad, you'll want to consider how you intend to use it. Are you looking for something to alleviate menstrual cramps, soreness, a pulled muscle, inflammation, or stiffness? Or perhaps you want a multi-use design you can reach anytime you experience aches and pains. Most heating pads can be used on various body parts, but some are shaped or sized for specific areas.
Another thing to consider is the size. Heating pads that claim to be "XL" are typically 16 x 24 inches, give or take, whereas standard models are usually closer to 12 x 15 inches. If you want something bigger, you can find oversized options that measure roughly 25 x 35 inches. Also, it's important to check the dimensions before ordering one, as heating pads often look larger online than they are in real life.
Do heating pads help with cramps?
Everyone is different, but a heating pad can help ease menstrual cramps by increasing blood flow to your lower abdomen and relaxing your uterine muscles. Microwavable options, soft plushies, or belt-style heating pads work well for this purpose. Dr. Sherry adds, "Drinking water, warm or hot, also helps relax the uterine muscles during that time of the month."
Can you use a heating pad while pregnant?
According to Dr. Sherry, it's OK to use a heating pad while pregnant, and it can be particularly helpful if you're suffering from lower back pain. However, it's best to limit your sessions to about 20 minutes and set it to a lower heat setting.
"If you apply it directly to your pregnant belly, make sure it's not hotter than the warm bath water you would normally bathe in," says Dr. Sherry. Also, avoid falling asleep with an electric heating pad during pregnancy.
How long should you use a heating pad?
Using a heating pad for 15 to 20 minutes is usually enough to alleviate muscle soreness, pain, or cramping. On a lower setting, you can use it for up to an hour. The main concern with extended use is burning your skin, so make sure you remove it promptly if it feels too hot.
Why Trust Byrdie
Theresa Holland is a professional commerce writer based in Portland, Oregon. She has been writing for Byrdie since 2020, where she covers beauty, wellness, and women's health. Perpetually on the lookout for products that reduce inflammation and stiffness, she has used several thermotherapy devices over the years. For this story, she spoke with an OB/GYN, researched the different types and key features of heating pads, pored over user reviews, and considered dozens of models before making her selections.
Meet the Expert
Sherry A. Ross, MD, (aka "Dr. Sherry") is an OB/GYN based in Santa Monica, California, a women's health expert, and the co-founder of URJA Intimates. She is also the author of She-Ology: The Definitive Guide to Women's Intimate Health. Period. and She-Ology the She-Quel.
According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find any heating pads from a Black-owned and/or Black-founded business. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will evaluate the product ASAP.