Infrared vs. Regular Heating Pad: Which is Better?
Heat therapy is the most common way of easing muscle stiffness, joint pain or muscle spams. Also known as thermotherapy, heat therapy typically involves the use of heating pads that are applied to inflamed or sore muscles.
The benefits of using heat therapy are manifold, as it increases the blood flow to the area where it’s applied and the increased blood flow brings proteins and oxygen along with.
Although there are many ways to use heat as a source of pain relief, nowadays, heating pads have made it easy and convenient to conduct heat therapy in the comfort of your home.
Heating pads are bags made of a high heat capacity material that gradually warms up and offers warmth to the surface on which it is applied.
Heating pads are of mainly two types, regular heating pads, and infrared heating pads. Many customers don’t know the difference between the two and often find themselves confused about which one would be more suitable for their bodily pain management needs.
Infrared vs. Regular Heating Pad: Characteristics
Both infrared heating pads and regular heating pads claim to do the same thing and both heating pads are based on the same basic mechanism. However, there is a huge difference when it comes to performance and benefits that can essentially make one more effective than the other.
Regular Heating Pad
The heating pads that you find easily on the market are mostly regular ones. They use electricity to generate heat that penetrates 2 to 3 mm into your skin and basically just warms it up.
The heat generated by the regular heating is good enough to warm your skin and relieve any surface level pain. However, the heat doesn’t penetrate deep into your muscles, tissues, and other organs.
So as long as your heating pad is in contact with your skin, you’ll continue to experience pain relief. The moment you remove the regular heating pad, the pain relief disappears and the discomfort returns.
Infrared or Far-infrared Heating Pad
The infrared or far-infrared heating pad uses a variety of natural stones and cotton fibers to generate infrared heat rays. These rays go deeper into your body and touch the inflamed muscle or affected nerves or bones.
The science behind this heat therapy is that when infrared waves penetrate through your skin, they are able to transform light energy into heat energy.
When using infrared heating pads, heat is able to penetrate through the skin and reach the inflamed muscle, nerve, tissue or bone for lasting pain relief.
A typical session lasts for about 30 minutes and the resultant pain relief you get from this therapy can last for up to six hours, all without having to use any other pain relief medication.
Infrared vs. Regular Heating Pad: The Differences
The heat generated by a regular heating pad can only go so far into the skin. The electrically generated heat can only penetrate around 2 - 3 mm into the skin without really breaking the skin.
This means that the heat only lingers in the top layers of the skin without going deeper into the muscle. This is why the heat disappears as soon as you turn the heating pad off and the pain relief is almost immediately gone.
On the other hand, infrared-generated heat can go as far as 5 to 6 mm into your body where the inner body can retain the heat for longer periods of time. Using infrared heating for 30 minutes can provide you with about 6 hours of pain relief.
Electric or regular heating pads use cotton fibers for generating heat, while infrared heating pads use jade stones, amethyst stones, and tourmaline stones, in addition to cotton fibers.
These stones are known for their healing properties and when used in a heated pad, they perform the function of transmitting infrared waves to our muscles, nerves, and bones.
Like all other electronic devices around us that emit a stream of invisible energy waves called electromagnetic field or EMF, an electric heating pad also sends out EMF radiation and can expose you to a number of dangers.
Hence, prolonged exposure to even low levels of EMF radiation can be unsafe for anyone using the electric heating pad.
On the other hand, an infrared heating pad is quite safe to use. The infrared rays are the same kind of rays that you are exposed to every day. Infrared rays make a major part of the sun’s visible spectrum range. Since the sun is a natural source of infrared rays, being exposed to infrared rays does not pose any danger to us.
In light of the above discussion, it’s safe to say that there is no comparison between the two types of heating pads. The only health benefit of an electric heating pad is that it gives immediate pain relief to the affected body part but only for the period in which it’s applied to that body part.
As we have already established that the heat and pain relief both disappear the minute the pad is removed, it’s safe to conclude that there are no long term benefits of this heating pad.
The infrared heating pad, on the other hand, comes with a list of health benefits that gives it an immediate edge over any other kind of heat therapy.
- Longer pain relief that lasts up to 6 hours
- Helps in relieving arthritic pain
- Increases blood circulation towards the affected part and throughout the body
- Eases the stiffness of muscles and relieves sore tissue pain
- Alleviates pain emerging from muscle inflammation
- It helps the body relax and reduces stress.
The time has come to ultimately decide between infrared vs regular heating pad: which one to choose? As mentioned, both are effective depending on what kind of pain relief you’re seeking.
However, if you need a long term pain relief program, the infrared heating pad will be a much better choice. It has the ability to offer pain relief from muscle aches and inflammation and can even heal damaged nerves over time, resulting in a much more effective pain management program.
It’s always best to assess your pain management needs and the type of heat therapy you require before investing in either an infrared or regular heating pad.