Small bean bags, either store-bought or homemade, are useful for heat and healing. Heat therapy helps chronic injuries that cause pain in the joints or muscle. Cold therapy is used immediately after injuring a muscle or joint in order to reduce swelling and is part of the RICE protocol (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation).
Where to find a bean bag
You can easily make a bean bag or buy one at a pharmacy, gift shop, farmer's market or online supply shop for massage supplies. Depending on the outlet, the bag may come with information on medical uses or may be sold more as a beauty/spa item. If you choose to make a bean bag, you will need:
A strip of fabric (cotton or silk are good choices) about 60 by 30 cm (2 feet by 1 foot).
Flax seed, available at any grocery store. Because it contains linseed oil, flax poses a very small fire risk. Lavender (for extra healing effect)
A funnel (for pouring flax into your bag)
Lay your fabric on a table or flat work surface. Fold in half so your bag now measures 15 cm (6 inches) by 30 cm (2 feet). This is a fairly standard, easy to use size, but if you need your bag for a specific injury, you may wish to adjust the size.
Sew inside out, either by machine or by hand, around edges, leaving a gap of about 5 cm (2 inches) on one side.
Turn outside in and, using the funnel, pour flax into the bag. Allow some slack so that the bag will lie flat on your body, but be full enough so that the flax, which retains the heat, will heal you.
Finish off the bag, sewing by hand until you have a small flax pillow.
How to use your bag
To use your bean bag for healing, either put it into a microwave oven on high for two to four minutes or heat with a steamer on your stove. Because moist heat is best for healing sports injuries, steaming your bean bag on the stove may be the more effective option. Microwaves are more convenient, but they tend to heat unevenly. Always shake the bag after removing it from either the microwave or the steamer basket in order to disperse the heat through the bag.
Now, place the bag on your injury and relax until the bag is no longer warm to the touch. You should feel immediate relief.
Other Uses for Your Bean Bag
Bean bags can be used as eye pillows, as sleep aids, to help sore tummies, on sore necks, for headaches-- wherever you need a little warmth and comfort. They make thoughtful gifts as well.