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Can a Heating Pad Help With PCOS Pain?

Medically reviewed by Robert Hurd, M.D.
Posted on May 7, 2024

“Hurting a lot today. Heating pad, here I come!” a myPCOSteam member shared. If you’re like many myPCOSteam members, you rely on a heating pad or hot water bottle for pain relief.

While a heating pad won’t cure the underlying cause of pain from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), it’s an accessible way to get some relief at home. This article will discuss how a heating pad can help you feel better and which precautions to take when using one.

PCOS and Pain

While pain is not a defining symptom of PCOS, it is frequently discussed by myPCOSteam members. The most common parts of the body where people with PCOS might experience pain include:

  • Lower abdomen or pelvic area — Pelvic pain may occur during menstruation or at other points in the menstrual cycle.
  • Lower back — Some individuals might experience lower back pain, which can be related to pelvic pain.
  • Head — People with PCOS may experience headaches due to hormonal fluctuations.

Pain can significantly affect quality of life for myPCOSteam members. Members share how pain prevents them from sleeping: “When you can’t sleep because your period pains are causing you that much agony. Even a hot water bottle and pain killers aren’t touching it 😭.”

Severe pain can make it hard for members to keep up with their normal routines: “​​I’ve been bedridden for hours with intense pain. I’ve already taken painkillers and drinking water and have a hot water bottle. Nothing is working.”

Talk to your doctor if your pain is interfering with your life. They can help you understand treatment options for PCOS, severe menstrual cramps, or other health conditions that may be causing you pain.

Heat therapy, often delivered using a heating pad or hot water bottle, can provide pain relief for some people with PCOS. (Adobe Stock)

How Can a Heating Pad Help PCOS Pain?

Whether you’re using a heating pad, hot water bottle or bag, or the water in a hot bath, heat therapy offers several benefits for healing and comfort. Heat therapy is particularly helpful for sore muscles and joints, as warmer temperatures increase circulation and reduce stiffness. The sensation of heat may also help crowd out pain signals to the brain by activating different nerves. As a result, muscle contractions and cramping in the pelvic region may feel more manageable when using a heating pad.

Potential Dangers of Heating Pads

Heating pads may seem harmless, but there are some potential dangers and safety considerations to keep in mind. Be sure to read the instructions on your heating pad and watch for any product recalls. Avoid using a heating pad for too long — around 15 to 20 minutes is usually all that’s recommended. If the lowest setting is sufficient, don’t turn the heating pad up hotter than needed. You can place a towel between your skin and the heating pad for extra protection.

Frayed wires or punctures make heating pads unsafe to use. And if you see sparks, it’s time to get rid of your heating pad. Always keep heating pads away from oxygen tanks, water, and unsupervised children. Finally, don’t use a heating pad when you’re falling asleep. You should be alert and mindful of how hot your skin feels.

Should You Use a Heating Pad?

It’s important to talk to your doctor about the type of pain you’re experiencing, including the location and severity of the pain. A heating pad is an effective home remedy but it may not be sufficient if your pain is making it hard to keep up with your daily activities and obligations. As one myPCOSteam member shared, “A heating pad just takes the edge off.”

Finding strategies to effectively manage pain is essential for your mental health. “Does anyone else get cramps so painful that they make you cry?” one myPCOSteam member asked.

You should never hesitate to let your health care provider know when you need more resources for pain management.

Finding the Right Heating Pad

Electric heating pads are popular and come with several useful features. You’ll need nearby plugs to connect the device. Look for an electric heating pad with an auto shutoff button, especially if you’re concerned about accidentally falling asleep while using it. Heating pads with multiple heat settings let you customize how hot it gets.

For joint pain, look for a heating pad that wraps around small areas. A good fit will let you move around while using the heating pad and better target the desired area.

Instead of an electrical plug-in heating pad, some people prefer wireless heating pads or hot water bottles. These wraps have a water compartment or come with inserts made from gel or sand. Simply heat the insert in the microwave for the recommended amount of time, put it in the pocket of the heating pad, and strap it on. It can be harder to control the temperature with nonelectric heating pads, but you won’t be required to stay near an electrical outlet.

Talk With Others Who Understand

On myPCOSteam, the social network for people with PCOS and their loved ones, more than 71,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with irregular periods, infertility, or other common symptoms of PCOS.

Do you use heating pads for PCOS pain? What other over-the-counter remedies do you rely on? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

Posted on May 7, 2024
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Robert Hurd, M.D. is a professor of endocrinology and health care ethics at Xavier University. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
Anastasia Climan, RDN, CDN is a dietitian with over 10 years of experience in public health and medical writing. Learn more about her here.

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