Backaches, sore joints or sprained muscles–heating pads seem to be a fits-all solution that easily helps relieve the pain.
While sore muscles and joints used to mark an occasional exhausting day, they are increasingly a byproduct of today’s hectic lifestyle and occur more frequently.
While in chronic cases people usually go to a doctor, the same cannot be said for everyday problems. Using a heating pad is probably one of the oldest measures to relieve pain in such cases.
A heating pad eases pain by providing heat therapy to the affected area. Sometimes, even doctors prescribe heating pads for pain relief. Menstrual cramps and urinary tract infections can also be treated by placing heating pad over the abdomen. You can also use it when you have a cold or the flu, or to warm yourself on a cold night.
While electric heating pads have been quite popular, many people don’t find them to be convenient. Most come with a cautionary label listing measures to be taken to prevent burns, electric shocks and fire.
It is also extremely unadvisable to use electric heating pads on diabetic people, people who have suffered a stroke or who have a decreased ability to sense pain. And of course, most labels advise you NOT TO SLEEP while using these.
Sounds far from relaxing!
Homemade heating pads provide a much cheaper and safer alternative, not to mention that you can catch a snooze without worrying about any fire hazard. Also, these homemade heating pads retain heat longer than your average hot water bottle.
You can easily make this your pet project, even if you’re a novice at sewing and stitching. You can make customized heating bags for friends and family as well.
Here are two methods to make your own comforting, homemade pain relieving heating pads:
- Method 1: Rice Bag Heating Pad
- A. Sewing Your Own Heating Pad
- Step 1. Mark the fabric with the dimensions of the desired size
- Step 2. Cut out the required size
- Step 3. Mark the margins
- Step 4. Hold the fabric together using sewing pins
- Step 5. Sew 3 sides together
- Step 6. Turn the fabric inside out
- Step 7. Mark 3 or 4 divisions on the fabric, depending upon the overall size
- Step 8. Add essential oil to the rice
- Step 9. Fill the bag with rice
- Step 10. Fold the mouth of the bag inward
- Step 11. Sew the mouth closed
- Step 12. Sew along the marked divisions
- Step 13. Microwave for 2 minutes
- B. Using an Old or Orphaned Sock
- Step 1. Add essential oil to the rice
- Step 2. Fill a sock with the scented rice
- Step 3. Tie a knot at the mouth of the sock
- Step 4. Microwave on high for 2 minutes
- Method 2: Hot Towel Heating Pad
- Additional Tips
Method 1: Rice Bag Heating Pad
A. Sewing Your Own Heating Pad
Things you’ll need:
- White rice
- Essential oil
Step 1. Mark the fabric with the dimensions of the desired size
Decide on the size of the heating pad, depending upon what you intend to use it for. Then, use a pencil and a ruler to mark the fabric with the dimensions of the desired size.
For your first attempt, go for a rectangular shape in a size that suits you.
Step 2. Cut out the required size
Cut the fabric along the marked dimensions with a pair of scissors. Try and include one fold in your fabric so that you have one less side to stitch. Also, you can cut 1 large piece of fabric and fold it in half to achieve the same end.
Step 3. Mark the margins
Mark a 1-inch wide margin on all the 4 sides, for stitching.
Step 4. Hold the fabric together using sewing pins
Align the sides to be stitched together and secure them in place with sewing pins. This will keep the fabric together and help you sew in a straight line.
Be sure that the wrong side of the fabric faces out while you do this. Shed your worries as once you’re done, the correct side of the fabric will end up facing out.
Pull your thread through a needle. Be sure to use a thread that matches your fabric well to avoid a messy look.
Step 5. Sew 3 sides together
Leaving 1 side open to fill the bag with rice, sew the other 3 sides together. If your cut piece of fabric is already joined on 1 side by a fold, then you only need to sew 2 sides.
Be sure to sew the stitches close together to prevent rice from slipping out the sides. If you’re handy with a sewing machine, you can easily do this in less time.
Step 6. Turn the fabric inside out
Once you’re done stitching, turn the fabric inside out. Now you can see that the right side of the fabric faces out and the stitching doesn't show either. Your bag is ready to be filled.
Step 7. Mark 3 or 4 divisions on the fabric, depending upon the overall size
If you’re making a large heating pad, sectioning the pad will make it better suited to effectively cover aching joints and curves of the body.
Lay down the bag flat on a flat surface. Depending upon the size of the bag, mark 3 or 4 divisions on the fabric with a pencil. The divisions should divide the fabric in equal parts.
Step 8. Add essential oil to the rice
Put 8 to 10 drops of your favorite essential oil in the rice. You can also use your choice blend of essential oils. We’ve used a mix of lavender and peppermint essential oils here.
Step 9. Fill the bag with rice
Carefully fill up the bag with rice. Try not to overstuff it. You’re making a rice heating pad, not a rice sack. The bag should feel full, but not too tight.
Step 10. Fold the mouth of the bag inward
After filling the bag with rice, you need to close the mouth of the bag. Start by folding the frayed ends of the fabric inward to keep them out of sight and give your project a neater look.
Step 11. Sew the mouth closed
Hold the folded fabric together and sew the mouth of the bag closed.
Step 12. Sew along the marked divisions
Finally, sew the bag together along the dividing marks you made earlier. This will section the heating bag and allow you to drape it easily around any aching joint or muscle. This way, you won’t have to continually adjust to keep it in place.
Step 13. Microwave for 2 minutes
Your heating bag is ready. All you need to do is pop it in a microwave for 2 minutes on high whenever you feel cramps or aches in your body. This rice heating pad will easily retain heat for a considerable period of time.
B. Using an Old or Orphaned Sock
Things you’ll need:
- An old or orphaned sock
- White rice
- Essential oil
Step 1. Add essential oil to the rice
To add a little aromatherapy to your heating pad, add 3 or 4 drops of your favourite essential oil to the rice. We have used lavender essential oil here.
When increasing the quantity to make a bigger heating pad, use 6 drops of essential oil per pound of rice.
Step 2. Fill a sock with the scented rice
Now you don’t have to throw away those old or orphaned socks. You can turn them into rice heating pads. Just be sure to test the fabric’s capability to withstand heat.
Fill the sock with the scented rice.
Step 3. Tie a knot at the mouth of the sock
Tie a knot to close the mouth of the sock. This should keep the rice locked in.
Alternatively, you can use a rubber band to secure the mouth of the sock or sew it shut.
Your heating pad is ready now.
Step 4. Microwave on high for 2 minutes
Pop your heating pad in the microwave on high power for about 2 minutes. It should stay warm for a good amount of time. You can easily use your sock heating pad for your neck or shoulder blade.
Method 2: Hot Towel Heating Pad
Things you’ll need:
- Towel hanky
- Hand towel
- Sandwich-sized zippered baggie
Step 1. Wet a small towel hanky
Dunk a small hanky-sized towel in water. Wring the towel to remove the excess water.
Step 2. Microwave the wet towel for 2 minutes on high
Fold the wet towel and place it in the microwave. Set the heat level on high and microwave the towel for 2 minutes.
Step 3. Put hot towel in the baggie
Using a pair of tongs, put the hot towel in a sandwich-sized zippered baggie. Seal the bag completely. The bag helps contain the heat of the hot towel and slow down its cooling.
Step 4. Cover the baggie with the hand towel
Place the baggie on a hand towel. Fold the towel in from the sides, enveloping the baggie completely. Your heating pad is ready.
Hold it against the affected area for immediate relief. The double layering of the baggie and the hand towel effectively locks the heat in and retains it for a longer period of time.
This works effectively for situations like a sprained wrist, where you have to hold the heating pad against the affected area.
- Be warned that the 2 minutes of microwaving makes the wet towel very hot. Use caution while handling the hot towel.
- The size of the towels should be determined according to your needs. Keep in mind the size of your microwave when choosing the size of the hot towel. The size of the covering towel and the baggie should also be adjusted proportionately.
- Ideally, cotton is the best choice of fabric to make your own heating pad. But you can use any fabric that can withstand a clothes iron at the highest heat setting, without melting or getting outright scorched.
- Instead of essential oil, you can use dried herbs in your rice heating pads.
- Wheat, feed corn, barley, oatmeal, beans or even cherry pits can be used as an alternative filling in your heating pads.
- The rice heating pads can also be used as a cold compress. Just toss one in a freezer, and you can use it the next time you bump your head.
- The rice heating pads can last up to 2 years, as long as no water gets into them. Their heat retaining capacity, however, decreases over time.
- If your microwave doesn’t have a turntable, pause after 1 minute of heating, shake the bag of rice, put it back in the microwave and heat for another minute.
- Some alternative methods for warming your heating pads:
- Coal pans: Both the wet towel and rice bags can be heated over hot coals when placed inside coal pans.
- Electric heating pads: Even if you’re unwilling to use your electric heating pad on your body for any number of reasons, you can easily use it to heat your all-natural heating pad. It should take just a couple of minutes.