For those of us with ~uterine woes~, the best heating pads for cramps need to be top-notch for pain relief during menstruation. After all, period pain is no joke. Studies show that more than 80% of people have experienced cramps and sore muscles around the abdomen during their menstrual cycle.
“Heat can help relax the muscles contributing to cramping,” says Iris Kerin Orbuch, M.D., director of the Advanced Gynecologic Laparoscopy Center at Providence Saint John’s hospital in Los Angeles. “Heat also naturally increases blood flow to the site of your pain. That's why a period heating pad is a total game-changer.
However, the sheer number of options available can be overwhelming. Should you get a microwaveable heating pad or a classic corded one? Is it best to place an electric heating pad directly on the skin or on top of your period underwear? What sleeping positions for cramps are best to ensure they don't slide out of place? We asked Dr. Orbuch for expert advice and tips on how to find and use the best heating pads to relieve cramps.
Okay, are heating pads safe?
“Period cramps occur when the muscles of your uterus contract, typically just before or during your period. Prostaglandins are released, which cause painful contractions,” Dr. Orbuch explains. “[Heat helps] by relaxing the myometrium, or smooth muscle of the uterus.
So when you apply heat directly to the cramping area (the lower belly or back), “the blood vessels will begin to dilate, which allows more blood flow to your uterus.” If you're using microwaveable or electric heating pads, avoid placing them directly on your skin to prevent them from causing burns.
What should you consider when buying them?
The main differences between the various types of heating pads lie in their portability and the way they create heat. Ask yourself these questions before making a purchase.
- Will you use it at home, while traveling, or at work?
- Will you be moving around frequently or staying in one place?
There are many options to fit your needs, including “electric heating pads, the old-fashioned hot water bottle, and microwaveable pads,” Dr. Orbuch says. Cordless, rechargeable, and adhesive pads that can be stuck directly to the body are great for on-the-go relief. If comfort is your main priority, electric heating pads (heated via electrical coils, often allowing for temperature customization) or aromatic microwaveable options might be a better route.
“If you're looking for a corded heating pad, make sure that it has an auto-shutoff function,” advises Dr. Orbuch. “Those with a timer are great, so it doesn’t stay on for long. A bonus is when it comes with a machine-washable cover, making it easy it clean,” she adds.
So which are the best heating pads for cramps? The short answer: It all depends on what you're looking for. That said, here are our top picks, many of which are available on Amazon.
The Best Heating Pads for Cramps:
- Best Weighted Heating Pad: Sharper Image Calming Heat Weighted Heating Pad, $90
- Best Rechargeable Heating Pad: Sunbeam GoHeat Cordless Heating Pad, $85
- Best Budget Heating Pad: Attmu Classic Rubber Transparent Hot Water Bottle, $12
- Best Washable Heating Pad: Geniani Extra Large Electric Heating Pad, $30
- Best Adhesive Heating Pad: Rael Heating Patch for Menstrual Cramps, $12