What are Hot Packs?

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  • Written By: Troy Holmes
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 02 July 2019
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Today there are many non-drug based remedies that help the body recover from injuries. Hot packs are special heating pads that are chemically engineered to produce heat when opened. These pads are compact in design and are typically used in emergency situations to assist with pain management.

Most hot packs contain sodium-acetate, which is a form of salt. This chemical is stored in a bag or container as a liquid. When the bag is engaged, a chemical reaction occurs, which causes the liquid to become a solid. This process produces heat within the bag. These can then be turned back into a liquid by boiling them in hot water. This makes them reusable therapeutic devices.

Many health care providers use heated pads to help relieve pain and tension in sore muscles. These hot packs come in many forms and can assist with injuries in the neck, arm, back, and legs. The pads are typically covered by cloth or plastic material to protect the skin from allergic reactions.

Most pharmacies offer a variety of hot packs. These can be used on a daily basis to help with long-term muscle cramps. Hot pads are an inexpensive therapeutic pain remedy that is better on the internal organs than typical pain medicine. These pads can be used in everyday circumstances, which make them a good choice for business professionals on the go.


Hikers and outdoor sportsman typically carry hot and cold packs for emergency purposes. These packs are small lightweight, packages that can be easily stored in an emergency safety kit. Hot packs have an additional benefit because they produce heat — they can be useful on cold weather expeditions.

Heated gloves and seat warmers have been available for a few decades. These products use the same engineering techniques as hot packs. Many avid motorcycle riders use heated pads in their gloves. This makes motorcycling more tolerable during the winter months.

Thermal hot packs come in many shapes and sizes. Most of them include adhesive strips that help secure the device to the injured area. A hot pack will typically work for a few hours before it begins to cool. During this time it is important to not overuse the injured area while a patient is feeling less pain.

Today there are also organic forms of heated pads available. These are typically made of corn or rice. An organic pad requires heating in a microwave, which generates external heat while it cools.


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Post 4

@ddljohn-- Yes, there are. I have one. To reuse it, you have to drop it in boiling water. After a few minutes, it's ready to use again. There are also microwaveable hot packs that are microwaved to heat up. You can use those as many times as you want.

Last winter, I bought flat hot packs from the pharmacy to use inside shoes. We were going hiking and I stuck the hot packs on the top of my socks before putting on my boots. My toes were warm for many hours, it was great.

Post 3

Are there reusable hot packs? I had a few at home but they were all one time use only. I went through them very quickly. I feel like it's a waste of money to use it only once and then throw it away.

Post 2

@Fristepha-- That's a great question. I'm not a doctor but I think I can answer. Heat makes inflammation (swelling) worse. When you have swelling, you have to use an ice pack. My mom had bursitis a few months ago and like you, she used ice packs to treat it. It worked great.

When you have injury or pain without any swelling, you can use a hot pack on it. I usually use a hot pack for strained muscles. I have a problem with my neck and hot packs are very useful for releasing the tension and relaxing the tightened muscles.

Sometimes, alternating between hot packs and cold packs can be helpful as well. You can try one of them and decide what to use depending on how your injury responds.

Post 1

I’ve been very confused about when hot packs should be used. I know it depends on the condition, but when is it better to use heat and when would cold be recommended? I’ve been dealing with a nasty case of bursitis on my left foot. I thought heat might help with the pain, but my doctor recommend icing it. Is that because it’s swollen? Does heat only make swelling worse? I assumed it would alleviate the discomfort, but if it only makes the swelling worse, I obviously don’t want to aggravate it.

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