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Sometimes, there can be nothing better for back pain than a heating pad (Wikipedia). However, if like me you’re concerned about EMF radiation, then heating pads can be a worrying thing. I decided to look into the issue of EMF radiation from heating pads in more detail.
So, do heating pads emit EMF radiation? Like all electrical devices that heat, heating pads produce large amounts of EMF radiation. This is because it takes a lot of power to produce heat. Also, heating pads are considered more dangerous because of how close they are to your body.
If you often feel like a heating pad is your only option for pain relief, but you’re concerned about EMF radiation, then it’s definitely worth looking for an alternative. In this article I look at the reasons why heating pads can be so problematic, along with the best alternatives.
Heating pads and EMF radiation
Heating pads can be a great way of managing localized pain, and many people claim they’re very soothing. However, the issue of EMF radiation from heating pads is rarely discussed, and it’s definitely something that requires attention.
Using electricity to produce heat requires quite a large amount of power. In essence, heat is a waste product of an electrical current being passed through a resistant wire. This means that it makes quite high demands on your mains electricity, and can often produce large amounts of dirty electricity (RELATED ARTICLE).
Alongside this, a heating pad will produce EMF radiation in the form of an electrical field, which is another potentially harmful element. However, this is true of any power-intensive heating device, but is a particular issue with heating blankets.
EMF radiation is usually thought of in 2 ways: length of exposure time and proximity to the body. Some areas of the body, such as arms and legs, are considered less at risk than the torso and head. It’s believed that being exposed to EMF radiation for longer periods of time is more dangerous than short, even strong, bursts.
As you can see, this is a particular problem with heating pads. The whole point of them is that they’re meant to be in direct contact with your skin, often for long periods of time. While some people use them overnight, manufacturers often advise against this because it can lead to burns or other problems.
EMF radiation is considered cumulative, meaning the longer you’re exposed to it, the more dangerous it becomes. This is true for both strong and weak sources of EMF exposure, but obviously powerful sources are more of a concern.
Considering heating pads are such a potential worry when it comes to EMF radiation exposure, and all the health issues this can cause, it seems like a bad idea to keep them around in your home. While some people feel they’re helpful for managing pain, it can be worth looking at other options.
Health effects of EMF exposure from heating pads
Heating pads generally produce heat through infrared radiation, which penetrates between 2 and 3mm into your skin. This is why it’s considered so beneficial for back pain: it’s more than just a surface treatment. However, this carries a range of potential risks.
Again, it’s worth returning to the fact that heating pads will often be in direct contact with your skin for extended periods of time. This is where the real issue lies, along with heating pads being a reasonably strong source of EMF radiation.
The following are the main health concerns when it comes to EMF radiation:
- Increased risk of various types of cancer
- Disruption to sleep cycle, including trouble falling asleep and waking up
- Increased risk of mental health problems, including anxiety and depression
- Nausea and loss of appetite
- Headaches, migraines and head fog
- Changes in blood pressure
- Heart problems
- Abnormal cell growth
- DNA damage
There are other health concerns related to EMF exposure, but these are the main ones. Considering your risk increases the longer you’re exposed to EMF radiation, you can probably start to see why heating pads concern me so much.
Some people are very sensitive to EMF radiation, and have trouble being around sources of EMF radiation, even relatively weak ones. However, many people might not even know they’re vulnerable to this problem because the symptoms can often be confused for other conditions.
If you’re using a heating pad, it’s fair to assume you’re managing a pain problem. Many of the secondary symptoms of this pain could be made worse by you using a heating pad, even if it seems like it’s treating the main problem. However, it can be difficult to find the right balance between the two problems.
If you haven’t yet read my article on EMF from electric blankets, I suggest you do as it is related to radiation caused by heating.
Alternatives to using a heating pad
As more and more people wake up to the potential health issues associated with EMF radiation, more alternatives are appearing. What’s more, with people becoming conscious of their energy use, there are also non-electric alternatives to heating pads appearing.
Of course, how useful these are will depend largely on how serious your pain is, and what other methods you’ve tried to manage it. You may have found that a heating pad is one of the few things that actually makes a difference, in which case your options will be slightly more limited.
Below are my alternative solutions to using a heating pad. I’ve chosen these because they’re either low EMF, or completely EMF free when in use. Try a few and see which works best for you. Hopefully there will be at least one that makes a difference.
1. Try a low EMF heating pad
The more I looked into this topic, the more low EMF heating pads I realized there were. The market is actually pretty crowded, meaning you’ve got plenty of options to choose from. However, this can also make it pretty difficult to choose the right one for you.
Low EMF heating pads often use semi-precious stones, such as amethyst (Amazon link), as their heating element. This helps to massively cut down on the amount of EMF radiation the device emits. However, bear in mind that all electric devices will still emit some level of EMF radiation, so beware companies saying theirs is zero emission.
Also, some of the types of stone used in these low emission mats are said to have their own beneficial qualities when it comes to protecting the body from EMF radiation. I’d not feel comfortable agreeing with this claim, but you can always test it for yourself using an EMF radiation meter.
With all online purchases, take a look at customer reviews. These will be the most helpful thing to look at when deciding which low EMF heating pad is right for your needs, as there’s likely someone else out there with a similar concerns.
However, bear in mind you’ll probably need to spend a bit more money for a low emission mat, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Cheap heating pads will come with a range of problems, particularly relating to radiation emissions, while a higher quality one will be more efficient.
It’s also worth considering the fact that most low EMF radiation heating mats only refer to the mats themselves, rather than the rest of the circuit. This could be a problem if you’re particularly sensitive to EMF radiation, as you could still be affected by the remote.
I’d recommend considering a low EMF radiation heating pad if you think that a heating pad is definitely the best option for your pain. Limit yourself to around 30 minutes of use a day if possible, as this will at least reduce your exposure time. Hopefully this will be a good compromise for your situation.
3. Make a homemade heating pad
If your pain problem isn’t too severe, but deep heat is a good way of managing it, then it could be worth trying to make your own heating pad at home. These are a great way of getting the benefits of a heating pad without having an electrical device strapped to your body.
You’ve got a couple of options here:
Use a wet dishcloth
Take a wet dishcloth and put it in a microwave safe plastic bag, such as a freezer storage bag. Heat in the microwave in 30-second bursts until warm, but not hot. Wrap this whole package in a dry towel and place on the affected area. This should stay warm for a good 30 minutes or so.
Use an old sock
A great homemade heating pad can be made from an old sock. Fill it with uncooked rice, and possibly add a few drops of lavender essence for scent. Microwave this for between 1 and 2 minutes until warm.
It’s worth leaving it a little bit before applying it to the area, as dry rice can continue heating itself after being removed from the microwave. This should stay warm for a few hours. Also, you could use dry oats or barley instead.
3. Heat a towel in the oven
This is a good choice if you need a heating pad for a larger area. Simply take a damp towel and put it in the oven at 300 degrees F for 5-10 minutes. Around this time, begin checking it, because you want it warm but not dry.
Wrap this towel in another, dry towel and then apply it to the affected area for up to 20 minutes. This is probably the most labor intensive option, but it’s still not that hard.
Obviously, all of these methods still involve using some kind of electrical device, namely a microwave. As those of you who are familiar with EMF radiation will know, this is a big source of radiation in the home.
However, you’re not going to be using it for very long, and have the advantage of being able to stand a safe distance away from the microwave while it’s in use. This almost completely removes the harmful element of EMF radiation from using a heating pad.
4. Buy a reusable heating pad
I imagine most of you have seen the heating pads that can be snapped to activate. They’re often sold as hand warmers, and are either disposable or reusable. They work using a chemical reaction, so are essentially electricity free during the whole use process.
Well, these are also available in larger versions to use as heating pads. This is a great alternative to electric heating pads because they can just be snapped and used. Some take as little as 3 seconds to warm up, and stay warm for up to an hour.
It’s obviously worth getting a reusable one, as it’d be pretty wasteful to use a new disposable one every time. The reusable heating pads can just be boiled in water to return them to their liquid state.
Most brands claim to last for years, and some are capable of getting pretty warm. You might find yourself paying a bit more for a good one, but this is true of anything.
4. Use a hot water bottle
One age old, sure fire way of applying heat to your body is by using a hot water bottle. These have been around in some form or another for a very long time, and there’s a reason for that.
With a hot water bottle, you don’t have to worry about any EMF radiation, as you can just fill it with water from the tap and then apply it to the affected area. What’s more, they stay hot for a very long time, meaning you can take them to bed with you and still treat your pain.
Some final thoughts
Finding the balance between using a heating pad and managing your pain can be difficult. While heating pads do emit radiation, they can often be one of the few things that actually work for some people.
However, as you can see, there are plenty of EMF radiation-free alternatives to a normal heating mat. The most important thing you can do regardless is limit your exposure time to these sources of EMF radiation.