how do heating pads work

How do Heating Pads Work: A Complete Guide

It is a well-known fact that drinking a cup of hot coffee or tea, or soaking in a warm bath can help relax joints and muscles almost instantly. The utilization of heat for relaxation, comfort, and to relieve pain is more useful than most people realize.

Early History of Heat Therapy

This type of therapy, also known as thermotherapy, is not anything new. In fact, using heat to alleviate pain dates back to 500 BC during the time of ancient Greeks and Egyptians. Ancient physicians often used the sun’s rays, hot air caverns, and thermal baths linked to volcanic sources for therapy. Even the Father of Medicine, Hippocrates, once said: “Give me the power to produce fever, and I will cure all diseases.” He recognized early on the power of heat in relation to healing.

With modern technology, we can enjoy heat therapy in the comforts of our homes. Several products, like heating pads, have made it easier and a lot more convenient for us.

What is a Heating Pad

A heating pad is a cushioned device used to warm parts of the body to manage and relieve pain. The first heating pad was invented in 1911 by Earl Richardson, the same man who invented the electric flat iron. The modern-day heating pad usually falls under one of these categories: electric, chemical, or microwavable heating pad.

  • Electrical Heating Pads. These types of pads operate using electricity and must have protection against overheating. Thus, many models come with an auto-shutoff feature. They are available in both moist and dry heat options and come with variable time and temperature settings. 
  • Microwavable Heating Pads. These types of pads are designed to be heated in microwave ovens before use. They come in a variety of sizes, shapes and are filled with a substance, such as wheat, cherry pits, and flaxseed, that can be warmed in the microwave to produce moist heat.
  • Chemical Heating Pads. These pads are disposable warmers created for a one-time chemical reaction. They are small, they heat up quickly and can be worn directly on the skin. One example would be hand warmers. 

How Do Heating Pads Work

Heating pads are made out of firm but soft material, making it both comfortable and practical. They are designed to fit against the curves of the body, like neck, shoulders, and knees, easily. A heating pad works by applying the science of heat therapy.

One of the most common reasons for any muscle pain is the accumulation of lactic acid in the area. Lactic acid is a normal byproduct of muscle metabolism and is said to build up when there is a lack of oxygen or blood in the area. Without sufficient oxygen, blood flow decreases, and this can cause soreness and discomfort in the muscles in that region.

The application of heat to an aching area allows the facilitation of blood to flow to the specific spot. Basically, it causes blood vessels to dilate, removes the accumulation of unwanted lactic acid elements, and, ultimately, alleviates the pain.

Aside from muscle pains, heating pads are found to be effective in treating a wide range of aches. This includes tissue injuries, menstrual cramps, and post-surgery recoveries.

Sore muscles on the neck, legs, or back can make it difficult to accomplish just about anything. Heat therapy is known to be one of the most efficient ways to reduce inflammation and soreness.

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