How does a heat pad help with period cramps?

a woman relaxing on a chair holding a heat pad on her tummy

If you’re tired of struggling with period discomfort every month, you’re not alone.

Millions of people in the UK experience menstrual cramps. They can be anything from mildly annoying, to making you want to curl up in bed all day. However, there are plenty of practical ways to soothe your monthly tension – including using a heating pad.

Here’s how heat can help to relieve discomfort, plus how to use a heat pad safely.

What causes menstrual cramps?

a woman relaxing on a sofa with a heat pad on her abdomen

According to the NHS, period cramps happen when your womb tightens during your period. During menstruation, your uterus contracts to expel menstrual blood. 

These contractions are triggered by a hormone-like chemical called prostaglandin. 

Unfortunately, if you have higher levels of prostaglandins, you might experience more cramping! However, there may be other factors at play if your cramps are severe.

Key symptoms of period cramps

  • Discomfort or tension around your tummy
  • May spread to your back or thighs
  • Usually starts on or days before your period
  • Can last for a few days each month

It’s common to have some discomfort around your period. But if you’re finding your cramps feel worse than normal, it could be worth asking your GP for advice.

That being said, you can help ease period cramps with various at-home methods, including heat.

How heat can help relieve tension

How does something as simple as warmth help with period tension and discomfort? 

When it comes to menstrual cramps, heat can be a powerful yet gentle ally. Applying heat to your tummy or lower back helps to increase blood flow to the area. This can help to boost circulation and relax tense or aching muscles, providing much-needed relief.

Heat can also affect your overall wellbeing, acting as a comfort and distraction. 

The benefits of using a heat pad

While using a traditional hot water bottle or soaking in a warm bath both provide heat, a heat pad could be the most convenient companion during your period. Here’s why:

  • Targeted: a heat pad gives targeted relief to one particular area. Some heat pads can be strapped in place, ensuring you have hands-free warmth and comfort
  • Temperature control: heat pads are designed to stay at a consistent temperature and don’t need to be reheated, simply plug in and enjoy instant targeted relief

  • Portable: discreet and easy to use, a heat pad is portable enough to bring to work. And you don’t need to go to your work kitchen with your hot water bottle

  • Safety features: treat your most sensitive area with care! Heat pads are typically designed with safety built-in, such as an automatic shut-off for peace of mind

  • Cost-effective: our heating pads run on mains electricity and are cheap to run. They’re also washable, providing a long-term solution every month

  • As well as cramps and tension in your abdomen, periods can also leave you feeling run down. Snuggling up with a heat pad is a good way to relax and look after yourself.

    How to use a heat pad for period cramps

    a woman on a computer wearing a back support heat pad

    How you use a heating pad to relieve period cramps is up to you. You may prefer the heat pad pressed against your lower back, or find more relief cuddling it to your stomach.

    However, it’s important not to overdo the heat, as this can actually worsen symptoms.

    Start with a lower setting at first, for around 15 to 20 minutes, then adjust as needed. Some pads allow you to control the intensity and time. Pick one designed with safety in mind, so you won’t burn your skin, or fall asleep with your pad on through the night. 

    Which type of heat pad is best for you?

    Our electric heat pads are designed to be comfortable and provide controlled warmth, but a few are ideal for soothing cramps or menstrual tension around the time of your period.

    Rectangular heat pad 

    • Extra portable for home or at work
    • Discreet enough to wear under clothes
    • Can be used anywhere on the body

    Back support heat pad 

    • Ideal for lower back tension
    • Belt keeps the heat in place
    • Can be used standing up

    Whatever style you choose, enjoy warmth exactly where you require it most for quick relief from period discomfort. The gentle heat eases muscle tension while catering to your comfort with customisable temperature settings and soft, hypoallergenic fabric.

    Other ways to soothe period discomfort

    As period cramps are different for everyone, finding your ideal level of warmth can take time. Once you find what works for you, you may want to combine other methods:

      • Taking a warm bath first to help relax tense muscles
      • Gentle exercise or stretching, such as yoga or walking
      • Staying hydrated with water and cutting down on alcohol
  • Stress relief like meditation, deep breathing or massage
  • Paracetamol or ibuprofen are recommended by the NHS

  • When managing period cramps, it’s important to take a holistic approach and listen to your body. If you have severe discomfort, or suspect an underlying health condition, you should consult your GP or health professional before using heat or medication.

    Your stories about heat pads

    We understand how frustrating period cramps can be, but many people find relief from using a heat pad. Here are some real experiences of using them for period cramps.

    “I’ve been buying these for many years…having spinal trouble they are a god send to me.. I’ve bought them for all the family at different times…worth their weight in gold to me.. I have one on my chair and one in my bed.. Great for arthritis, muscular pain and period pain..” – Lavender lil

    “Bought for my daughter. She uses it to ease severe period pains and it works very well” – Monte 316

    Heat pad FAQs answered

    Can heat make period cramps worse?

    If used incorrectly, heat pads may make period cramps worse. It’s important not to overuse or rely on heat pads, and to start with a low level for short amounts of time. Carefully read the instructions on your heat pad before using it for menstrual tension. 

    If you suspect an underlying health condition such as endometriosis or pelvic inflammatory disease, talk to your GP or health professional, as using heat may worsen cramps.

    Where should I put a heat pad?

    Most people get period cramps around their lower abdomen or lower back area, so you may want to experiment with a rectangular heat pad, a back support pad, or both. 

    You could balance a heating pad on your abdomen in bed, hold it against you on the sofa, or slide it between you and a chair. A back pad with a belt offers hands-free relief.

    Do I need to wrap a heat pad in a towel?

    Dreamland safety features help you find a gentle level of heat, so you won’t need to wrap our heat pads in a towel. However, if you’re using a stronger level of heat, you may want to weaken this by putting a towel between you and the heat pad, for peace of mind. 

    How long should I leave a heat pad on?

    If you’re starting out using heat to relieve period cramps, we’d recommend trying for around 15 to 20 minutes, at the heat pad's lowest setting. You can then see how you’re feeling, take a break, and use it again if you need to. If you feel too warm, remove or lower the intensity using the heating controls, and never fall asleep with a heat pad on. 

    You can also alternate using a heat pad with other methods, such as yoga or a bath.

    What if my period cramps are severe?

    Using a heat pad for menstrual cramps can help you feel more comfortable and relaxed, but severe cramps should not be ignored. If you’re left feeling like you can’t do your normal activities, or your cramps can’t be managed using at-home methods, you should talk to your doctor. Severe cramps may be a sign of endometriosis or pelvic inflammatory disease, and a health professional will be able to perform a more thorough evaluation.

    Does a hot water bottle help with cramps?

    The humble hot water bottle, wrapped in a towel, can be a go-to for helping to soothe and relieve period cramps and muscle tension. However, there’s more risk of overheating or burning your skin with a hot water bottle, as the heat is less controlled than a heat pad. 

    They’re also less convenient and discreet, as you have to refill them at a sink.

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