Chronic pain affects up to 30% of American seniors and impacts all aspects of their life, from personal hygiene to social interactions. When it feels like your back, legs, or abdomen is on fire, it’s hard to sleep, relax, and get any kind of enjoyment from life.
Heating pads are designed to help with crippling, chronic pain and these products are often targeted toward elderly users. They provide a safe, comforting, and effective way to kill pain and help with a host of issues, including osteoarthritis and muscular problems.
What to Consider When Buying a Heating Pad
A heating pad is like an electric blanket that wraps around your body, targeting problem areas and providing instant relief. To make sure you choose the best heating pad for you, look for the following features:
Heating pads range in size, from ones that will cover your upper or lower back to full-length mats that cover everything. Patients with localized pain can save a few dollars by sticking with the former, while those dealing with more generalized pain should opt for the latter.
Controlling the Temperature
How many levels of heat does the product offer and is it hot enough for your needs? Not only do you need a heating paid with multiple heat settings, but it should feature a dial that you can actually turn.
Customers with arthritis and dexterity problems should pay special attention to this feature.
Everyone has heard stories of house fires that resulted from a single appliance, charger, or electrical device. It’s enough to make any senior scared of sleeping with their heating pad.
However, the best ones feature an automatic shutoff feature that will kick in after around 2 hours, turning off the device and eliminating the risk of harm.
Is the pad easy to clean, can you throw it into the washing machine, and are there any specific cleaning instructions to follow? You want something that you can use for years to come, which means it will get dirty and need to be cleaned at some point.
The Best Heating Pads for the Elderly
Heating pads are available for the neck, back, and even the knees. As noted above, they come in many shapes and sizes and there are a lot of features and specifications to consider. To make it easier for you, we have highlighted the best pads from different categories, all of which are available at Amazon.com for less than $50.
The Best Heating Pad for Your Neck and Shoulders – TheraPAQ Neck Warmer
A simple, cheap, and effective neck/shoulder warmer that you can heat in the microwave and then slip over your shoulders. It looks like your average run-of-the-mill airline pillow, but it’s filled with clay micro-beads that withstand the high temperatures of your microwave and trap all of that helpful heat.
The TheraPAQ is a great choice for seniors who have chronic neck or back pain, a problem that is becoming more common as many people spend their days hunched over desks and smartphones.
The Best Heating Pad for Your Upper Back – REVIX Electric Heating Pad
A plush, wearable heating pad that covers the neck, shoulders, and upper back, with magnetic clasps and a weighted rim that provides a comfortable fit.
The REVIX pad comes with a remote control attached and this controls 6 different heating settings. It shuts off after two hours of use and can be sprayed with water to transform into a moist heating pad.
The Best Heating Pad for Your Lower Back – Sunbeam Heating Pad
At just $28, this is one of the cheapest options on this list, but it is also the most versatile. It’s basically a thick, flat mat filled with heating elements and it’s connected to a remote control. It has 4 different heat settings and an auto-shutoff that activates after 2 hours.
The reason it’s our pick for lower back pain is that you can lie on it, drape it over you, or wrap it around your midsection. It comes with a 5-year warranty and has over 15,000 Amazon user reviews, suggesting that there is no shortage of happy customers out there.
The Best Moist Heating Pad – Vive Moist Heating Pad
Vive is one of the biggest names in the mobility industry and a name you will see on countless mobility and assistive products. It has both moist and dry heat settings, with the former able to provide more penetration and the latter offering much higher heat settings.
Available for between $20 and $25, this is a very affordable and effective heating pad and it is sold in two different sizes.
The Best Heating Pad for Your Knees – Sunbeam Flextemp Joint Wrap
Suitable for knees and elbows, the Sunbeam Flextemp offers hot and cold treatment options and is suitable for joint injuries and chronic pain. It features a remote control that has 3 heat settings and an automatic 2-hour shutoff.
Other Pain Killing Solutions for Elderly Users
Strong opioid painkillers and non-steroidal painkillers (NSAIDs) are often prescribed for chronic pain. They are effective and help with all kinds of pain, but they are far from perfect. Opioids cause constipation, a problem that is already quite common among seniors, and they are highly addictive.
Over time, users develop a tolerance, the drugs stop working as well as they used to, and flu-like withdrawal symptoms appear as soon as treatment is stopped. As for NSAIDs, they increase the risk of internal bleeding, exacerbate the symptoms of GERD, and may increase the risk of heart disease when consumed to excess.
All drugs have side effects and the most effective ones are addictive and dangerous. It helps, therefore, to swap or supplement these medications with drug-free methods. Heating pads are just one of the many products in this category. Others include:
- Hypnotherapy: Walk-in bathtubs are great for seniors who suffer from mobility problems and back pain. Not only do they allow for easy access, negating the need to climb into a slippery bathtub, but they are often fitted with hypnotherapy jets designed to target problem areas.
- Exercise: Back pain and leg pain are worsened by inactivity and prolonged sitting or lying. Although it seems counterintuitive, a little exercise can help, especially if it focuses on stretching and on slow, methodical movements. Tai chi is perfect for seniors, but yoga and Pilates provide many of the same benefits.
- Acupuncture: In traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture is recommended for its apparent ability to clear energy lines. Western medicine doesn’t prescribe to these beliefs, but research suggests that acupuncture does work, with the most likely explanation being that it triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkiller.
- TENS Machines: A TENS machine uses electrical currents to stimulate the muscles and provide mild to moderate pain relief. It doesn’t work for everyone or for all types of pain, but it is one of the most effective types of natural painkillers on the market.
- Ice Packs: You can’t beat a good old ice pack when the pain gets to be a little too much. As with the heating pads outlined above, ice packs work by reducing inflammation and swelling.
Some methods are more comfortable and accessible than others, but they are all safe (although, with TENS and acupuncture, that only applies when used as recommended or administered by a professional). They don’t have anywhere near the number of side effects associated with prescription medications.