Heat therapy is an effective way of relieving certain types of pain and one of the oldest pain therapies we know of. If you're here to learn how to make your own microwave heat bags, you're probably wondering whether you have to buy one of those pricey pre-made microwave heat bags. Fortunately, you don't, and making your own is actually quite easy.
What Are Microwavable Heat Bags?
A microwave heat bag is a way to apply soothing warmth to aching joints and muscles or just a way to keep warm on a cold winter's day. To be useful, the bag needs to have certain characteristics:
How Do You Use Microwave Heat Bags?
A good heat bag can just be thrown in the microwave for a minute or two, 30 seconds at a time. Always heat your bag in 30-second intervals and then check on the heat level. When you do, turn the bag around so no side burns by staying in constant contact with the plate. Putting a mug of water in the microwave with your bag will also ensure you don't burn it.
Are Homemade Bags Any Good?
The quality of all homemade microwave heat bags depends on who makes it! A well-made bag can be equal to anything you might buy and superior to some other choices, like electric blankets. While electric blankets and bags might seem like an efficient way of getting the heat you need, the risk of burns, shocks, and fire is high. Many people don't feel safe leaving an electric heating device on all night; but microwave heat bags, if made well, can keep you warm all night without these risks.
How To Make Microwave Heat Bags?
Choose A Filling
You can pack your bag with a variety of materials and there are pros and cons to each one. Here are just some of the fillings commonly used in these bags:
Fillings To Avoid
Buckwheat is typically the most expensive choice, while peas and beans will leave you with a kind of odd (and usually unpleasant) smell once they're warmed up. Flaxseed, even if it's dried, will start to smell odd after a while, too, because the oil in the seeds eventually becomes rancid with repeated heating. Clay beads and cherry pits just don't seem to hold the heat very well.
Fillings To Love
Dried corn and rice are usually the most popular options. They both smell nice, are cheap, and work very well at retaining heat. They also tend to feel the best. Cherry pits or clay beads can be a great option to add to rice or corn, or you can add various dries flowers or essential oils to get a pleasant scent.
Choose A Shell
Any soft fabric that can take the heat of the microwave will work as the bag for your filling. If you don't want to spend money, you can repurpose old (clean) socks, use old sheets or pillowcases, or find some old flannel you have lying around. Anything made of cotton works very well.
A white or other very light cover might not be the best choice for the simple reason that it shows stains. This includes not just stains on the outside but also inner burn stains if you accidentally overheat the bag a few times. In general, fabric is cheap, so getting something pretty that you'll enjoy is not going to be too expensive.
Choose A Sleeve (Optional)
While you don't technically need a sleeve, it's a nice thing to have. The benefit of a sleeve is that it helps the bag retain heat for longer while protecting you from burns. Sleeves also extend the life of your microwave heat bag by protecting the shell. The sleeve can be any material you like, from wool to flannel to jersey, since you don't have to worry about whether it can handle the microwaving. Just remove the sleeve to heat up the bag.
Choose Your Size
The final thing to do is decide how big your bag should be. Most homemade microwave heat bags are about the size of a washcloth, but you certainly might want to do something larger if you plan on using the bag to heat up a bed or for use across the back.
Instructions For The Bag:
1. Cut two pieces of shell fabric to the size you want. One side should be a centimeter or two larger than the other so it can be folded over to seal the seams.
2. Fold the larger piece's ends over the smaller and sew up three of the sides. Be sure to keep your rough ends on the side of the material you want facing the inside once you're done.
3. Fill the bag between two-thirds and three-quarters of the way full with your filler material.
4. Sew up the final side.
Instructions For The Sleeve:
For the sleeve, your square or rectangle of fabric should be an inch more than twice as large as the fabric pieces you used for the shell.
- Fold the fabric in half and sew up two of the sides and one end.
- Slide your bag into the sleeve to test it. If there's too much room, sew up a centimeter or two of the last end until you're happy with the way the bag stays in the sleeve. Always leave room to get the bag back out.
Testing Your Bag
You should always test your bag to make sure you know the ideal amount of warming times for it. Put it in the microwave with a mug of water and heat it for no more than 30 seconds at a time. Check after each 15-30 second interval. When it reaches the desired heat level, make sure to note how much your bag needs. If you smell any burning, stop the microwave immediately.
What To Use Your Microwave Heat Bag For
Heat helps us relax. It also offers us a feeling of comfort, and for these reasons, among others, heat bags work well with certain kinds of pain. They are very effective for:
If you spent too long working in the yard or at the gym and feel stiff and sore, a heat bag will relieve the pain while helping you relax. You can use a heat bag for relieving pain in your shoulder after too much time at the computer or in your back after too much sitting.
Heat is very helpful to generalized aches and sensitivity such as you might feel with fibromyalgia or from having the flu. It can also help with rheumatic pain.
Stiffness and Cramps
If you have cramps or spasms, restless leg problems, or stress on certain joints from the way you sit or stand, a microwave heat pack is an effective way to treat the pain.
A heat bag is a great way to save on energy costs in the winter. Add a warm bag to the foot of the bed an hour before bedtime and enjoy sliding into a cozy sleep even with the thermostat turned down. Put one on your lap under a blanket in the home office so your legs and core stay warm while you work at the computer. If someone in the family is ill, help them stay comfortable with a heat bag under the blankets.
To Stave Off Soreness
If you've just engaged in a lot of exercise, even if you aren't yet sore, you can stave off much of the soreness by applying some heat therapy immediately afterwards.
What NOT To Use Your Microwave Heat Bag For
There are some kinds of injuries and pain you must never use heat to treat. Here are some times to avoid using your heat bag:
If someone has just turned an ankle, don't pull out the heat bag just yet. Apply something like a gel cold compress instead and wait a few days before starting heat treatment. Once the skin no longer looks hot and red and the swelling has gone down, you can use your heat bag.
If you've got pain from an infection, which is usually accompanied by swelling and tenderness and sometimes red skin, do not apply heat. If an infection is hurting enough that you're thinking about putting heat on it, see a doctor immediately.
Heat can be very helpful when you have arthritis, but if you have an acute flare-up accompanied by swelling and redness, avoid the heat pack.
Microwavable heat packs are a great way to treat soreness and stay warm. They're safer than electric heat sources and easier to refill than hot water bottles; with no chance of leaks, either! You can make as many as you like at home so you have access to fast, comforting heat whenever you need it.