If you're a menstruating person, you know how pesky period cramps can be. While they're worse for some than others, most can attest to the fact that they're unpleasant at the very best and can be debilitating at their very worst.
Luckily, there are many home remedies to help ease period cramps, including using a heating pad.
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How Do Heating Pads Help With Period Cramps?
Heating pads are simple — they provide direct heat to whatever area is ailing you (in the case of menstrual cramps, it's usually the lower abdomen), and help take your mind away from your pain.
"Your nerves are so focused on the heat that they aren't paying as much attention to the pain," explains Allison Rodgers, MD, an ob-gyn and reproductive endocrinologist with the Fertility Centers of Illinois. "Heat can also help with other sore muscles aside from the uterus (yes, the uterus is a muscle!), so people can benefit from using a heating pad elsewhere on the body."
The Best Heating Pads for Cramps
- Best Overall: QALTGC Heated Pad ($20.99; Amazon)
- Best Weighted: Homedics Heating Pad ($44.99, Homedics)
- Best Hot Water Bottle: Attmu Rubber Hot Water Bottle ($11.99, Amazon)
- Best Rechargeable: GoHeat Cordless Sunbeam Heating Pad ($63.09, Amazon)
- Best Wearable: Yeamon Portable Cordless Heating Pad ($29.99, Amazon)
- Best for All-Over Pain: Sunbeam Heating Pad ($22.03; Amazon)
How We Chose
We chatted with ob-gyns to better understand the benefits of using a heating pad to alleviate the discomfort and pain associated with menstrual cramps. We chose our top picks based on their recommendations and the following criteria:
- Temperature regulation
Bad period cramps can be a sign of endometriosis, a common condition that affects 10 percent of people assigned female at birth — nearly 200 million people worldwide, according to the World Health Association. While heat can help alleviate this discomfort, it’s important to seek medical attention if your period cramps are so painful that they prevent you from carrying out your day-to-day responsibilities, notes Iris Orbuch, MD, an ob-gyn based out of New York and Los Angeles.
1. Best Overall: QALTGC Heated Pad
As one of the top rated heating pads on Amazon, it's clear that QALTGC is a win for many people suffering from all sorts of debilitating pain.
One of its best features is that it heats up within seconds to instantly provide pain-relieving heat directly to whatever body part ails you. It also lets you select your heat preference, from low, medium or high, and has an auto-protection feature that prevents overheating.
The pad is made from a soft microfiber that's gentle against your skin and is extra large, for full coverage.
Buy it: Amazon; Price: $20.99
2. Best Weighted: Homedics Heating Pad
The weighted element can be a nice touch when it comes to a heating pad, because the weighted aspect offers the benefit of relieving anxiety, according to a March 2021 study in the Journal of Integrative Medicine.
While heat can draw moisture, this heating pad has a humiditech feature that is actually moisture-wicking to keep whatever area you are trying to heat nice and dry.
You can control the heat with four different settings and rest assured that the machine will shut off within two hours if left unattended.
3. Best Hot Water Bottle: Attmu Rubber Hot Water Bottle
Dr. Orbuch's favorite heating pads are the old-fashioned type that don't require cords or electricity at all — the water-bottle kind that you can fill with hot water.
Made with a high-tech thermoplastic material, this heating pad holds hot water longer than most, which is why it has such stellar reviews.
It's easy to use, too — just fill it with hot water to two-thirds of capacity, secure the anti-spurt lid and place it on whatever area of your body is experiencing painful cramps.
It comes in a variety of colors and patterns and can also be used as an ice compress for relieving swelling or injuries.
4. Best Rechargeable: GoHeat Cordless Sunbeam Heating Pad
One of the drawbacks to many traditional heating pads designed to relieve cramps is that they require you plug them into the wall, which often leaves you stuck in the corner of your home somewhere. It can also be quite problematic if you are in a location that doesn't afford you access to electricity or a convenient outlet.
Luckily, this brand allows you to recharge your heating pad with a lithium-ion battery that lasts up to four hours at a time and heats up quickly with three different settings. It's also portable, so you can move around freely while getting the pain relief you need.
5. Best Wearable: Yeamon Portable Cordless Heating Pad
Like the cordless option above, this heating pad lets you move around freely while in use and includes a host of other perks that people with cramps may find useful: It's designed to be worn like a fanny pack and is very lightweight so you don't feel weighed down.
In addition to its varying heat settings, this pad comes with three different vibration modes for added relaxation and pain relief. It shuts off after 30 minutes to protect you from burns and heats up in a matter of seconds for immediate relief.
6. Best for All-Over Pain: Sunbeam XL Heating Pad
Sometimes your pain is not localized, but instead can be felt all over your body. If you're dealing with both abdominal pain and back pain, for example, it's nice to have an extra large heating pad that can extend over both areas to provide all-over relief.
This one by Sunbeam is very affordable and features three different heat settings to customize your experience.
The only drawback is that it doesn't feature an automatic shut-off, so it's a good idea to set a timer or an alarm to make sure you don't fall asleep while using it.
What to Look for in a Heating Pad for Cramps
Here are some features to look for when shopping for a heating pad to help with cramps.
1. Temperature Regulation
It's important that any heating pad you buy gives you some control over the heat setting.
"If you ever see a red lace-like pattern on the area that you are applying heat, you should discontinue, as this can result in a permanent discoloration of the skin," warns functional medicine naturopathic doctor, Jolene Brighten, ND. "While some heating pads may tout high heat settings, more heat isn't necessarily better and can result in skin discoloration and potentially burns."
2. Automatic Shut-Off
From a safety standpoint, Dr. Rodgers advises never to sleep with a heating pad, as it can cause burns to your skin. This is why a heating pad with an automatic shut-off feature can come in handy.
Many of these devices won't allow you to use them for more than 20 or 30 minutes without shutting off to protect you from a burning incident.
3. Large Size
When choosing a heating pad for cramps, it's important to look at the size, especially if you experience cramps in other areas of your body aside from your abdomen.
"You should have something that covers your abdomen or back," advises Dr. Rodgers.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.