Period cramps can be extremely painful. Today we explore how hot water bottles can help address period pain and how effective they are in comparison to other common methods for pain relief, such as medication.
Let's see how our warm friends can be of help!
Can you use a hot water bottle for period pain?
Yes, a hot water bottle is a simple and inexpensive way to reduce menstrual pain. The heat from the bottle can help to relax the muscles in the uterus, reducing the intensity of the contractions and providing relief from cramping. Additionally, the heat can help to increase blood flow to the area, which can also provide pain relief.
5 advantages of hot water bottles for period pain
1. Easy to use
Hot water bottles are very easy to use. Not only can they be used at home, but they can also easily be taken to the office if you’re having severe period cramps.
Almost every office has hot water, all you need to do is bring your hot water bottle with you (and its cover!) if you can’t work from home. Practical, eh?
2. Natural and non-invasive
One of the biggest benefits of the hot water bottle is that it is a natural and non-invasive method of pain relief. This of course depends from one individual to the next: some period cramps can be extremely painful for some women, and easier to cope with for others.
Regardless of the level of pain you experience, it’s likely you will find the warmth of your hot water bottle soothing. If it provides sufficient pain relief and it prevents you from having to medicate, that’s great. If the pain is too intense, why not use complementarily to medication? Can’t do much harm.
3. No side effects
Hot water bottles, unlike some medications, have no known negative side effects if used properly. By used properly, we mean they should only be used in 15-minute cycles: apply them for 15 minutes on your belly, then take a 15-minute break. And repeat!
If you leave the hot water bottle on too long, you may burn your skin or get a rash. Let’s avoid getting you in more pain than you already are.
4. Relaxing mentally
In addition to providing a form of heat therapy, hot water bottles are comforting, soothing, and relaxing.
In addition to releasing tension in your muscles, they can help you relax your mind and make you feel cared for. Like a nice warm friend you would need on a bad day, in a way!
Another advantage of hot water bottles: they are cost-effective. With a price ranging between $8 and 50$ (depending on the cover you purchase with it, that’s what most influences the price), hot water bottles are relatively inexpensive and can be used for several years.
You can also see it as a one-time investment, with multiple functions. Indeed, they can also be used to alleviate back pain, muscle soreness, and of course, keep warm in the winter!
Drawbacks of using a hot water bottle for period pain
Not always effective enough
As previously mentioned, some of you experience more painful period cramps than others. In some instances, to some extent that hot water bottles may not do the trick.
If that’s the case, consider taking a pain relief medication (or whatever your general practitioner advises you to take) and using the hot water bottle as a complementary means for pain relief.
Can’t be used around the clock
Hot water bottles cannot be applied to your stomach all day long. This will likely lead to burns (even if you don’t feel them immediately) and rash due to prolonged exposure to heat.
This means that, unlike some medications, hot water bottles may not help with the pain for several hours and that you may need to continue the 15-minute cycle we talked about earlier to keep the pain under control.
Is there scientific evidence hot water bottles help with period pain?
Several studies have shown heat therapy to be an effective pain relief method for menstruation cramps (Kannan & Claydon, 2014, Wong et al., 2016, Jo & Lee, 2018).
One study notably showed heat therapy was the most popular strategy, as women often turned towards hot pads, hot towels and hot water bottles as means to alleviate period pain.
On the other hand, some findings also suggest heat therapy only offers short-term pain relief and that symptoms reappeared shortly after the heat was removed.
Are hot water bottles safe to use during periods?
Yes, hot water bottles have been cited in several scientific papers as means of pain relief for menstruation cramps. No side effects to their use for period pain have been found to this day.
Hot water bottles are safe to use if you don’t apply them directly on your skin and more than 15 consecutive minutes.
3 steps to using a hot water bottle for menstruation cramps
1. Fill the hot water bottle
Fill your hot water bottle up to two-thirds of its maximum capacity, push the air out of it and make sure it is sealed properly.
We advise you to read our article presenting instructions for hot water bottle use.
2. Use a cover
Your hot water bottle should not be in direct contact with your skin: this may lead to burns or the appearance of a rash. We recommend you use a hot water bottle cover or wrap it in a thick towel before use.
Bonus: using a cover will not only protect your skin, but it will also keep your hot water bottle warm longer!
3. Apply it on your lower belly in 15-minute cycles
Once your hot water bottle is safely filled and wrapped, apply it where the pain is located for 15 minutes maximum.
Avoid exposing your skin to heat for too long: take a break (at least 15 minutes) and apply your hot water bottle again!
We hope our tips and insights were of help. Hot water bottles have many benefits and are great alternatives for pain relief during painful periods.
While they will not make the pain disappear, they will certainly help soothe it and comfort you in these painful times, until you get through them!
All this being said, if using a hot water bottle doesn’t help soothe the pain (or makes it more intense), remember always to consult a health professional, especially if you notice something unusual with your period cramps.
In the meantime, keep nice and warm…and cosy!
Jo, J., & Lee, S. H. (2018). Heat therapy for primary dysmenorrhea: A systematic review and meta-analysis of its effects on pain relief and quality of life. Scientific reports, 8(1), 1-8.\
Kannan, P., & Claydon, L. S. (2014). Some physiotherapy treatments may relieve menstrual pain in women with primary dysmenorrhea: a systematic review. Journal of physiotherapy, 60(1), 13-21.
Wong, C. L., Ip, W. Y., & Lam, L. W. (2016). Self-care strategies among Chinese adolescent girls with dysmenorrhea: a qualitative study. Pain Management Nursing, 17(4), 262-271.