Let’s set the record straight: Diamonds are a girl’s best friend — until Mother Nature knocks on her door, that is. Then it’s buh-bye jewels, hello heating pad and PJs. Come to think of it, though, virtually any time my body aches, I’m plugging in the heating pad and setting myself up for relief on the couch. Sound familiar? Now raise your hand if you’ve ever dozed off with the thing still strung across your abdomen, or propped up against your back. I hate to burst your bubble, but it’s not safe to sleep with a heating pad on, so you might want to make sure this major mistake doesn’t happen again, as I can almost guarantee the potential side effects are going to be 10 times more painful than the discomfort you’re already trying to soothe.
Coming to terms with this unfortunate fact has been kind of earth-shattering for me, TBH. Granted, my mom has definitely scolded me in the past when she’d make my bed and find the heating pad lying under the covers, still plugged into the wall. At the time, I really didn’t see what the big deal was, seeing as how my handy dandy heater automatically shut itself off after an hour or so. Still, eventually the message got across, and I became more mindful of taking the heating pad off and putting it away before falling asleep.
As much as I believed, at the time, that this was a major inconvenience — I mean, really, how could I possibly fall asleep with a throbbing uterus and no heating pad to cradle the area while I slept? — it turns out my brilliant idea to cuddle with a heating pad all night long wasn’t so brilliant after all. In reality, Robert Glatter, M.D., an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital, Northwell Health, says it’s actually pretty dangerous.
“As a general rule, it’s not a good idea to sleep with a heating pad,” Glatter tells Elite Daily in an email. “Not only is there a risk of sustaining a burn, but there is the added risk of fire if it overheats." Though, to clarify, the risk of your heating pad bursting into flames on your stomach during the night is relatively small, Glatter says. Still, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say it’s just not worth the gamble.
Apparently there’s also a “wrong” way to use a heating pad, in case you weren’t aware. I know clutching a heating pad to your skin can feel downright heavenly when you’re hunched into a fetal position because of something like PMS pain, but Glatter says that direct contact with the skin is a potentially big mistake. “There is a small risk that the heating coil or element could overheat, and result in a thermal burn to the skin,” he tells Elite Daily. Plus, he warns, exposure to dry heat can result in dry skin, which is never fun to deal with.
Your best bet, Glatter suggests, is to wrap up the source of heat in a bath towel or cloth when applying it to an affected area.
As amazing as heating pads might be for quick relief, there are countless other treatments for muscle aches and pains. For instance, if you’d still prefer some sort of warmth to soothe your discomfort, instead of using a heating pad, try dampening a towel with warm water and using it as a compress, standing under a warm shower, or just turning the water temperature on high, closing the door, and sitting in the steam. Moist heat, as opposed to dry heat, Glatter tells Elite Daily, “penetrates into muscles and joints” more efficiently, and it also keeps your skin hydrated.
Topical balms, ointments, and oils can provide some relief as well. CBD and hemp oils especially, Glatter says, can offer a wide range of relief because, not only do they absorb into the skin and work to physically soothe the muscles, CBD oil can potentially ease anxiety, and when your mind is able to relax despite the pain, your body will typically follow suit.
Essential oils like geranium, peppermint, and cinnamon also work wonders for inflammation, but you might want to consider applying these diluted liquids to the bottoms of your feet, as the pores down there are apparently the largest on your entire body. In other words, oils that are massaged into your feet are absorbed more quickly than they are through your palms or temples, meaning you'll feel their effects that much faster, too.
But if you’re reading this and shaking your head, vowing never to abandon your beloved heating pad, I completely understand. You don’t have to chuck the device out the window; you just have to take precautions when using it before bed. The best way to do so, experts from leading electrical installations and repair services, Mr. Electric, tell Elite Daily, is to a) place the pad on top of you, not under you, keeping things like pillows, stuffed animals, books, and blankets off the pad to ensure all that heat emitting from the material has somewhere to go, and b) remember to turn off and unplug the pad before calling it a night.