Women all across the globe, from teenagers to grandmothers, endure their monthly menstrual cycle which brings with it a big mess, major inconvenience, and, most of all, excruciating pain. The pain in the lower abdomen is usually referred to as cramping, and one of the best reliefs for cramping is heat. Applying heat to any strained or achy muscles on the body will reduce pain. Here are more details.
How Does Heating Pads Help Relieve Cramps?
Both heating pads and hot water bottles have been used for ages to treat stomach pain and menstrual cramps, but not until recently did scientists discover how internal pain can be relieved by applying heat externally.
Menstrual pain and cramps occur as a result of the reduced flow of blood or over-distension of the uterus, which is a hollow organ. The tissue becomes damaged, and your pain receptors are activated immediately. Heat actually works the same way an over-the-counter pain reliever would. When you apply heat to your skin where you are experiencing pain, the heat receptors are activated, blocking your pain receptors from telling your brain that you’re in discomfort.
What's more, using a heating pad for cramps or other pains will increase your blood flow as well. Your blood vessels expand under heat, which allows more oxygen and blood to pass through them to the area where you feel cramps and aches. Your muscles will also relax, and spasms slow down. It’s recommended to use heat therapy or to apply heat to the abdomen for menstrual cramps and urinary tract infections as well.
It’s important to understand the safety measures that should be taken when using a heating pad.
You should never let your heating pad get into the hands of children, and it should be kept away from pets because it can cause serious burns.
After using the electric heating pad for some time, it should be switched off and unplugged, and never leave it on all night long as you sleep (although some newer varieties of heating pads do have a feature which will be turned it off automatically).
Make sure to follow the instructions that come with your heating pad to avoid burns, electric shocks or even fire. Take care about the wires of your heating pad, and don’t use it if the wires become damaged.
Pregnant women should not use a heating pad without consulting with their doctors first.
Never use a heating pad on infants, diabetic patients, or anyone who has suffered from a stroke.
Get a Heating Pad for Cramps
Types of Heating Pads You Can Use
There are several different kinds of heating pads you can use, depending on your preference and pain levels.
For mild pain, a microwavable heating pad is good. They are very low risk, cool off on their own and are very easy to use.
For mild to moderate pain, electrical heating pads and hot water bottles are better. Electrical heating pads need to be used with care, but are highly effective, flexible and adjustable. Hot water bottles are safe and more portable, as they don’t need to be plugged in. You can lessen the heat on a hot water bottle by using a cloth to cover it.
For severe pain, there are chemical heating pads. The heat produced by chemical heating pads is instant, and it uses an exothermal chemical reaction to produce the heat.
Before purchasing a heating pad, consider your needs and what would work best for you and your pain.
Make Your Own Heating Pad
You can also make your own heating pad for cramps with materials you already have at home, that won’t cost you anything. Two common ways to make a homemade heating pad are:
The Wet Towel Method: All you need are two small hand towels, a Ziploc bag, and a microwave. You make the towels wet, but remove excess moisture. Put one towel in the bag (do not seal the bag), and microwave it on high for two minutes. It will be hot when you remove it, so be careful. Then close your Ziploc bag and wrap it in the second towel and place it on the area where you have pain. It should give off good heat for at least 20 minutes.
The Rice Sock Method: Here you’ll need a big sock, some rice, a rubber band, and microwave. Fill your sock up with rice and secure it shut with a rubber band, or even by sewing it. Place the sock in the microwave on high for two minutes. Again, be careful when you remove the sock, as it will be hot. Place the rice sock on the abdomen for menstrual cramp relief.