What You Need to Know Before Using a Heating Pad
Heating pads are effective devices that can immediately relieve pain and provide comforting warmth. They are easy to use. However, there is a list of important information you need to know before using a heating pad.
A typical heating pad consists of coils connected to an electrical plug. This is its heating mechanism. When improperly used, it can cause electrocution and fire hazard. Also, certain types of heating pads can dehydrate or burn the skin.
To prevent unwanted drawbacks, this article discusses the techniques and proper ways of using heating pads.
Before Using a Heating Pad
Plug in the heating pad to warm it up then apply it on the painful area. Only use it when necessary. Using a heating pad seems so simple, but make sure that you have the following before using it:
1. Where the pain originates
Sometimes, determining where the pain arises is confusing. The pain on the neck might actually start at the back. This confusing sensation is due to the fact that the neck and the back share muscle paths and nerves.
2. Firm mattress or backed chair
Especially in cases of back pain, you need to lie down on a firm mattress. The mattress is a convenient venue to comfortably lie on your back or stomach. It puts you in a relaxed position so that the heating pad can easily relieve the pain.
3. The appropriate type of heating pad
There are four types of heating pads: microwave, infrared, electrical, and chemical heating pads. Each pad is made of different materials in which the heat penetrates different levels of the skin.
If the pain is due to stiff muscles or injured tissues, the heat must reach the tissues to provide relaxation and heal them. The infrared heating pad can provide this warmth. On the other hand, if you need to warm your body during the winter season, the microwave heating pad can provide the warmth that does not go deeper than the skin level.
How to Use a Heating Pad?
For immediate and effective pain relief, the following are the proper ways of using heating pads according to the various origins of pain:
- For back pain, lie down flat on a firm mattress or on a stiff surface. The required temperature level for this pain is between the third setting and the highest setting. Even though the heating pad is already covered with a soft fabric, place a layer of clothing between the heating pad and your skin. This is to avoid extreme heat contact that causes a burning sensation on the skin.
Slowly lie on the heating pad. Sit up to some extent for five seconds each in two minutes. Once it feels like the heat has already been absorbed by the muscles, remove the heating pad. It is advised to use the heating pad for less than an hour to prevent further injury.
- For pain related to the gallbladder, place the heating pad on the right side of your abdomen, just slightly below your ribs. The pad should have second to medium heat. For a comfortable position, lie down on your side or sit on a chair.
- For shoulder pain, lie on your back on a stiff surface. The heating pad should have the second or medium heat level. Put it directly on the affected shoulder while comfortably lying on the surface.
If both shoulders are in pain, use the heating pad alternately. For faster heat absorption and pain relief, raise your arm straight up for 15 minutes. Then, do it on the other arm. Avoid applying the heating pad on the shoulder for more than one hour unless advised by the physician.
There are also other important pieces of information that you should know. Do not place a heating pad on swollen or broken skin. Always remember to use a heating pad for pain and a cold compress for swelling.
Moist Heat vs. Dry Heat
Majority of heating pads are warmed up through electricity. They are convenient to use and are long-lasting compared to the moist heating pads. However, dry heat can dehydrate the skin. It is likely to draw out skin moisture.
On the other hand, moist heat is less convenient. It comes in various forms such as steam towels, hot baths, and moist heating pads. Unlike dry heat, moist heating pads do not cause skin dryness. It also penetrates deeper into the skin to improve the elasticity of tissues.
Precautions Before Using a Heating Pad
To avoid an accident or burning of the skin, the following are the necessary precautions that you need to know when using a heating pad:
- Do not apply the heating pad on the skin for more than 20 minutes at a time per hour.
- Always put a thin layer of fabric between your skin and the heating pad to prevent burns or skin irritation.
- Remove the heating pad from the skin before you fall asleep. Again, do not use it for more than an hour.
- Do not use a heating pad on broken skin or for certain skin conditions such as eczema, dermatitis, and psoriasis.
- Heating pads are made with coils and electric wires. Avoid using them near water to prevent electrocution and fire.
- Do not apply a heating pad on the aching body part right after exercising.
- Do not use a heating pad when you have diabetes, infection, deep vein thrombosis, multiple sclerosis, etc.
Is Using A Heating Pad While Pregnant Safe?
This is another concern on the use of heating pads. A heating pad can significantly increase a pregnant woman’s body temperature. Consequently, the developing baby’s body temperature may increase too. High temperature may harm the baby and cause birth abnormalities.
The heating pad is safe to use during pregnancy as long as it does not increase the pregnant woman’s core body temperature. However, avoid leaving the pad on the body overnight or while sleeping. It is advisable to use the pad for short periods, like 10 minutes or less.
Heating pads are effective and convenient devices that help alleviate pain and provide comfort. Although they are easy to use, safety measures should still be observed while applying them on the aching body part. They are made with electrical parts that could be hazardous when plugged in improperly.
As long as heating pads are used with precaution, they are advantageous to everybody’s health and wellness.