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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

19 Models Considered
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217 Consumers Consulted
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best microwavable heating pads

Last Updated July 2019

Achy back, shoulders, neck, or joints keeping you awake at night? A good microwavable heating pad can provide relief in minutes. Microwavable heating pads come in a variety of shapes and sizes to contour to your body. That’s good news, since the shoulders and neck need far more contouring and flexibility from a heating pad than the lower back. A microwavable heating pad can be applied to those areas and other targeted pain points as well. If you suffer from arthritis, fibromyalgia, or any other of a myriad of health conditions that might call for a moldable heating pad, read on.

One of the many benefits of microwavable heating pads is the application of moist heat. Moisture helps the heat seep into sore joints and muscles and feels like it reaches deeper into the body than dry heat from a traditional heating pad.

Size and shape options

There is no standard size when it comes to microwavable heating pads. Some are as small as 11 x 6 inches; others are as large as 24 x 10 inches. Long, narrow designs that are around 25 x 4.5 inches work best for wrapping around the neck and across the shoulders. Microwavable heating pads that are roughly 11 x 6 inches work better on the lower back. For consumers with all-over back pain, there are models large enough to cover the entire back.


If you want a heating pad that can be used almost anywhere on the body, look for a basic square or rectangular shape. If you want something that contours to a specific area of your body, look for a model with several seams. Seams create pockets of filler and allow the heating pad to bend and conform to the curves and angles of the body.

Filler options

Microwavable heating pads are stuffed with a filler that can be heated in the microwave. The list of possible fillers is long, but the most common include the following.

  • Rice
  • Flaxseed
  • Popcorn kernels
  • Cherry pits
  • Synthetic microbeads
  • Synthetic gel


If you're looking for a heating pad that can double as a cold pack, synthetic fillers typically perform better. If heat retention is your primary goal, there's not a lot of difference between natural and synthetic materials.

EXPERT TIP

If you love your heating pad but don’t love the cover due to the texture or even the color, consider slipping it into a pillowcase when in use. The pillowcase also acts as a protective barrier for your skin.


Staff  | BestReviews

Other options to consider

Contouring/flexibility

The shoulders and neck are the hardest areas on which to place a heating pad. A basic rectangular heating pad may have extra seams to help it bend across the curve of the shoulders without all the filling falling to one side. A microwavable heating pad that fits like a cape is another option that helps cover the entire surface of the shoulders. Some cape-style heating pads have a fastener to help keep the pad in place.

Fitting the neck can be tricky, too. Long, thin heating pads with a seam or two are a good choice for this area. If you want to target both the neck and shoulders, consider a cape design with a collar that heats the neck and shoulders at the same time.

Portability

Travel can cause some serious discomfort. If you want to take your heating pad with you, you’ll need one that's lightweight and small enough to fit in a carry-on. This will eliminate many of the cape models.

Notably, gel heating pads are probably the lightest option, but they may not pass airplane security. If you’ll be traveling on a plane, we suggest a microwavable heating pad with a natural filler such as rice or flaxseed. These materials are lightweight and provide impressive heat retention.

Heating time

Heating times vary by the size and filler of the heating pad. Most heating pads can reach the right temperature in two minutes or less, which doesn't put pain relief far away. The size of the heating pad and power level of your microwave can also affect heating time. If the manufacturer offers heating guidelines, follow them for safety’s sake, as a microwavable heating pad could get hot enough to burn the skin.

Comfort

The cover of the heating pad can make a big difference in your comfort, especially if you have sensitive skin. Polar fleece, natural cotton, and breathable fabrics are cozy choices. If your skin is sensitive, avoid heating pads with stiff covers.

Aromatherapy

Some microwavable heating pads include lavender or herbs in the filler. Every time the heating pad is warmed, you get an aromatherapy session. Other heating pads have a pocket or sleeve sewn in to the cover where you can place the herbs or essential oils of your choice.

Removable cover

Removable covers are often machine washable. Even those that aren't machine washable are easier to care for if they can be removed for spot cleaning. Once the cover starts to wear out, you could either purchase a new one or make a new one.

Color

Considering that you'll most likely be using a heating pad in the comfort of home, color probably isn't that big of an issue. However, there are microwavable heating pads that come in several color choices if you want something that complements your personal style.

DID YOU KNOW?

Heating pads should only be used for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. After that, remove the heating pad and wait an hour before applying it again.

Microwavable heating pad prices

Microwavable heating pads start around $20. Models in this price range are usually small squares or rectangles. They may have contouring seams. You’ll find these basic microwavable heating pads with both all-natural and synthetic filler choices.

In the $20 to $40 range are heating pads designed for specific parts of the body, such as the neck and/or shoulders. Larger models that target the entire back also fall in this price range.

Microwavable heating pads that cost over $40 are usually large or designed for a specific area of the body. A strap or fastener to hold the pad in place will likely be included. These pads may have covers made of a plush material (like polar fleece) for increased heat and comfort.

Tips

  • Read the heating directions carefully and check the power level on your microwave. It might take some trial and error to find the heating time and level that suits you best.
  • Use caution if you use the heating pad on an area of your body that may be numb. Heating pads of any type, including microwavable heating pads, can burn the skin. Placing a towel between the heating pad and your skin as a buffer is always an option.
  • Talk to your physician if your injury is less than three days old. New injuries typically need cold rather than heat to reduce swelling. Heat generally works best on chronic injuries and those that occurred more than three days ago.

A rectangular heating pad is the most versatile shape. While it won’t adhere perfectly to every body part, it can effectively work on the knees, back, shoulders, or neck.

Staff
BestReviews

Other products we considered

With so many heating pads on the market, we couldn't include all of them on our list. However, there are a few additional choices worth considering. The Sunny Bay Body Heating Wrap has several cover options and comes in sizes large enough to cover the whole back. The natural all-wheat filler can also be used as a cold pack. We also like the Ultra Premium Herbal Heating Pad. Certified organic fillers and herbs for aromatherapy set this product apart from many of the other microwavable models. It has an extra center seam to help it contour to the body, and it heats in only 90 seconds.

Heat brings blood to the targeted area and helps relax tight muscles. The combination of increased circulation and relaxed muscles can help relieve stiffness and soreness due to a number of causes.

FAQ

Q. Do fillers like corn, flaxseed, or microbeads feel lumpy if you lie on them?
A. 
A lumpy heating pad may cause more discomfort than it eliminates. In general, the fillers used in microwavable heating pads are designed to mold to your shape so you can be comfortable regardless of your position. However, with some of the larger fillers like popcorn kernels and cherry pits, you’d probably appreciate some cushioning beneath the heating pad, such as that provided by a mattress or couch.

Q. Do any microwavable heating pads come scented?
A. 
The scent depends on the filler and the design of the heating pad. Heating pads designed for aromatherapy most certainly have a scent, which you may be able to change depending on your needs. But watch out, as some fillers have a distinct scent of their own. If you're sensitive to odors, we suggest getting a heating pad with a gel filler, as it's unlikely to carry an unpleasant odor. Also keep in mind that the cover may start to absorb odors from your microwave. In that case, regular washing of the cover and wiping down of the microwave can help.

Q. Can a microwavable heating pad also be used as a cooling pad or ice pack?
A.
It depends on the filler. Gel fillers are the most versatile and do well for both cold and hot applications. Natural fillers like cherry pits, flaxseed, and corn kernels, on the other hand, can be used for cold application, but they don’t tend to hold cold temperatures as long.

The team that worked on this review
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Enid
    Enid
    Editor
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer

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