Generally speaking, heat therapy (via a heating pad) is one of the best home remedies for different types of pain. But when it comes specifically to your cycle, you might be wondering: “does a heating pad help with menstrual cramps?”
Whether your menstrual cramps come in the form of dull aches or sharp pains, a heating pad can provide tremendous relief. This is because heating pads increase circulation and increased circulation helps to relax tight or cramped muscles. In the case of menstrual or PMS pain, the heat helps to relax uterine muscles, resulting in less cramping.
Now there are various ways to enjoy the pain-relieving effects of a heating pad and in this article we’re going to look at:
- The research that supports the use of heating pads for painful periods.
- How to use heating pads safely.
- A simple way to enhance the action of heating pads.
Note: this post contains affiliate links and I earn a commission (at no additional cost to you) if you use them to make a purchase.
WHY DOES HEAT HELP WITH PERIOD PAIN?
The main reason why heat therapy is beneficial for pain is because heat increases blood flow to the site of pain. And this increased blood flow relaxes the muscles in that area.
Now in the case of period cramps, one theory about why it works states that (source):
- heat relaxes the myometrium. The myometrium is the middle layer of the uterine wall and it’s also where the smooth muscles – which contract and cause pain – happen to be.
- by relaxing the myometrium, the blood vessels that were constricted are able to relax and allow more blood to flow to the uterus.
Of course, this is just theory. But, what does research actually have to say about this? Well, there’s a study that was done with a small group of women who were experiencing period pain.
The women used heating pads at a temperature of 104 – 107°F and the study showed that heating pads produce the following changes in menstrual pain:
- 27% decrease in pain after 1 hour.
- 43% decrease in pain after 2 hours.
- 79% decrease in pain after 4 hours.
Aside from evaluating pain reduction, the researchers also looked at changes in blood flow to the uterus.
And they found that the women who had the most pain reduction also appeared to have increased blood flow to the uterus.
Now, do keep in mind that from a scientific perspective this study wasn’t perfect because there was no control or placebo group. However, there’s no denying the results!
Hopefully, more studies on this topic will be done under more scientifically ideal conditions.
WHERE DO YOU PUT HEAT FOR MENSTRUAL CRAMPS?
For most people, applying a heating pad to the lower abdomen is the best way to get relief from period cramps. In addition, you can also apply heat to the lower back area for added relief.
The final choice of where to apply heat is really up to you and depends on where you tend to experience the most pain.
Also, some of us can tolerate heat better in one part of the body versus another part.
So, if you find that your lower abdominal area is too sensitive to heat, then try using the heating pad on the lower back (or vice versa).
HOW TO USE A HEATING PAD TO RELIEVE PAINFUL PERIOD CRAMPS
There are two ways to use a heating pad as a home remedy for period pain:
- use it by itself.
- combine it cramp-busting essential oils.
1. Apply A Heating Pad Over Lower Abdomen Or Lower Back
There are many different types of heating pads to choose from, including:
For convenience, a portable heating pad is ideal because you can still go about your day fairly easily.
In addition there are also heating patches that are quite discreet and practical for life on-the-go.
Now, unlike a regular portable heating pad that wraps around the body, the patches are a small thin sheet that you stick onto your underwear (either in the abdominal area or lower back area).
Since they don’t cover a large area, they may not be the best for pain that radiates in different directions. But nonetheless, they’re very convenient.
Here are a couple of heating pads and sheets to look into:
- The Rael Heating Patch is infused with all-natural ingredients like lemon balm, juniper berry, jasmine, dandelion root and rosehip. It warms up to about 149F and lasts about 6 hours. You can get yours here from Amazon.
- The Comfier heating pad is a cordless pad that wraps around the body (like a waist belt). It comes with 3 temperature settings and can be powered by batteries or charged via USB. Visit Amazon to learn more about this heating pad.
2. Combine A Heating Pad With Essential Oils for Menstrual Pain
Essential oils alone are a great natural remedy for menstrual pain. However, combined with a heating pad, you can get an extra pain-fighting boost!
So, how do you use essential oils and a heating pad for painful periods?
- massage your diluted essential oil(s) onto your lower abdomen and/or lower back for about a minute.
- apply a heating pad over the area.
That’s it! The heat also helps to boost your skin’s absorption of the oils 🙂
Now, in terms of which oils to use, there are many amazing essential oils for menstrual pain. These include:
- Clary sage
If you want to make your own blend, follow the recipe in this post on essential oil roller blends for menstrual cramps.
On the other hand, if you’d like to use something ready-made, then check out this PMS Ease blend from Eden’s Garden.
Just bear in mind that the PMS Ease is not pre-diluted. So it must be diluted with a carrier oil like almond or coconut oil before use.
When using this blend (or any undiluted essentials oils) aim for start with 3% dilution. If that doesn’t provide enough relief you can go up to 5% or even 10% for very severe pain.
Here are the guidelines for each dilution level:
- 3% dilution: 13 drops of essential oils to 1 tablespoon carrier oil.
- 5% dilution: 22 drops essential oils to 1 tablespoon carrier.
- 10% dilution: 40 drops essential oils to 1 tablespoon carrier.
If you need help understanding essential oil dilutions this post on how to dilute essential oils has you covered.
HOW LONG CAN YOU USE A HEATING PAD FOR MENSTRUAL PAIN?
As we saw earlier in this article, the women in the heating pad study used the device for up to 4 hours, with temperatures ranging from 104 – 107°F.
In real life, how long you use a heating pad for will depend on the type you use (portable vs. not) as well as the pad’s temperature settings.
In general, though, it’s always best to apply heat for about 15 to 20 minutes to start. Then you can take a break, evaluate your pain and resume use of the pad as necessary.
Furthermore, when using a heating pad to ease menstruation pain, keep the following guidelines in mind (source):
- Always start on the lowest setting and then gradually increase the temperature as needed.
- Never apply a heating pad to broken skin that has an open wound or cut.
- Always protect your skin from burns by wrapping the heating pad in a towel. Then apply the wrapped up heating pad to your skin. Or you can place the heating pad on top of whatever clothing you’re wearing. Just avoid direct contact between the pad and your skin 🙂
- Make sure not to fall asleep when using a heating pad because you might overheat your skin. Also, if you’re using an electric heating pad, you definitely don’t want to fall asleep while the pad is on.
FAQs ABOUT DOES A HEATING PAD HELP WITH MENSTRUAL CRAMPS
How do you sleep with period cramps?
If you’re struggling to sleep with period cramps you can try home remedies such as turmeric milk (potent anti-inflammatory), increasing your zinc intake or taking an epsom salt bath.
To see the full list of 10 tips that you can use, read this article on how to sleep with menstrual cramps.
How do you get rid of period cramps fast?
Whether you’re looking for temporary relief from cramps or you want to get rid of them for good, it’s a good idea to focus on anti-inflammatory and hormone-balancing remedies. This includes herbs like ginger and cramp bark, anti-inflammatory smoothies and even taking a complete multivitamin (yes, nutrient deficiencies can also contribute to inflammation).
Even though menstrual cramping is very common, it’s not something that you have to put up with.
Natural remedies like a heating pad are a simple way to get quick relief so that you can still live your life.
And if you’re looking for more than just temporary relief, then be sure to check out the related articles below as well as my complete collection of menstrual cycle articles. There are lots of free tips that you can use to have a struggle-free period!