When your back is throbbing from a long day of work, or cold weather is making your arthritic joints unbearably stiff, a touch of soothing heat can be just what you need. Throughout history, heat therapy has been used in various forms to treat joint and muscle pain. Hot baths, hot water bottles, saunas, infrared therapy and electric heating pads are all valuable for easing mild to severe pain and muscle spasms. One modern heat therapy tool that’s unique for its simplicity and versatility is the bean bag heating pad.
How Does Heat Therapy Work?
Heat therapy is effective for acute and chronic pain conditions that don’t involve swelling. It is commonly used by physiotherapists and medical practitioners.
Strained or tired muscles often go into a tight, painful spasm.
Heat, when applied to the painful area, reduces the number of pain signals sent to your brain.
When your brain stops receiving the signals, it allows the muscles, tendons and ligaments to relax and loosen up for easier movement, which brings even more pain relief.
Heat also helps increase blood flow to the injured area, which expedites tissue healing.
Medical Benefits of Heated Bean Bags
When filled with the material of your choice, bean bag heating pads provide soothing warmth without any need for cords or outlets. All you need is a microwave oven to heat the pad before use. It’s easy to wrap your pliable, custom-fitting pad around any area that needs relief.
Bean bag heating pads are a perfect solution for chronic pain, fibromyalgia, muscle fatigue or spasm, aching joints, stiffness, abdominal spasm, menstrual cramps, tension headaches and more.
Why Is a Bean Bag Better than Other Heated Products?
Bean bags offer several advantages over traditional electric heating pads and other alternatives.
- Bean bag heating pads are portable; you can take them with you wherever you go, even outdoors.
- You can customize your heating pad with your favourite textures, colours and prints.
- The pad’s shape will never become permanently distorted from accidental shifting or bending.
- You can change the filling whenever you like, or add dried herbs for an aromatherapy effect.
- Heat shouldn’t be applied to one area for more than 20 minutes; your bean bag has a natural, built-in heat timer to keep you safe, even if you fall asleep.
Make Your Own Bean Bag Heating Pad Cover
- Choose a soft but durable heat- and microwave-safe fabric.
- Cut a rectangular piece of fabric a little more than twice the size you want your heating pad to be, and place it right side up on a table.
- Fold the fabric over so that the right and left edges meet evenly, and pin along the bottom and right edges.
- Sew the pinned edges together using a short stitch. Your result should be a bag with one open end.
- Turn the pad inside out.
- Fill your pad half-way full, and stand it up on its end.
- Fold the open end’s edges inward, and pin the top.
- Close the opening with a top-stitch.
Filling Options for Bean Bag Heating Pads
The polystyrene EPS beads typically used to fill bean bag style chairs are not appropriate for use in bean bag heating pads. Never use these in a heat therapy product; they could cause burns or produce toxic fumes when heated.
The best fillings for your heating pad come straight from Mother Nature, and you can find them at your local supermarket. Here are a few great options for non-toxic, effective, Eco-friendly fillings.
All fillings should be completely dry and uncooked. Each option has its own weight, feel and natural aroma. Experiment with several to see which ones you find most appealing.
- Rice (any type)
- Small dried beans or peas
- Cherry pits
- Grass or birdseed
How to Warm Your Bean Bag Heating Pad
Several factors affect microwave heating times including the size of your heating pad, the type of filler it contains, how full it is and how warm you want it to be.
As a general safety rule, start out by heating your pad for 30-second intervals and testing its heat level by hand until it reaches the desired temperature. When possible, ensure that the pad rotates as it heats.
If your microwave doesn’t have a rotating plate, shift the bag’s contents back and forth to help distribute the heat evenly. Like any item you heat in a microwave, your bean bag filling can burn, so never leave it unattended, and always be careful when you remove the hot pad or place it on your skin.