WET TOWEL COMPRESS: A wet towel, folded and placed inside a plastic bag (a large heavy zip-lock bag works well for this...be sure to leave the bag "unzipped" while heating) heated in the microwave for 2-4 minutes or until hot. Leaving the hot wet towel inside the plastic bag, remove it from the microwave, press all air out of the bag and "zip" or close it up. This heated towel can be applied on a sore area of the body. It works well, is economical and easily available in most homes. Be careful, however, the towel can become very hot using the microwave and you may want to wrap it with another towel or cloth as a buffer before applying it to the skin. This method worked well for an elderly woman I was taking care of for a few years. She was afraid to use an electric heating pad for many reasons and would only use this method. Her skin was very sensitive and I had to place a dry towel between the plastic bag containing the moist heated towel and her skin. The heated towel was good for about 20-30 minutes and then needed to be reheated.
WET WASHCLOTH COMPRESS: A wet washcloth can be folded and placed in warm-hot water and used for sore areas that are small in size. During childbirth, we often use wet washcloth compresses soaked in warm-hot water or warm-hot comfrey leaf tea on the perineal area during the pushing stage of labor. This reduces painful, stretching-buring sensations, relaxes the perineum and vaginal opening allowing tissue to stretch as the baby's head is crowning. It also keeps the blood circulation in the tissues, preventing tearing while it is stetching open and gives the mother a focal point on where to concentrate her labor efforts when we tell her to "push into the warm cloth". Again, don't make the water or tea too hot, just hot enough to hold in your hands comfortably. The perineal area and external genitalia is sensitive and you do not want to burn this area. Because the cloth is smaller, it will need to be replaced much more often. I often use two cloths and alternate their use so I always have a warm one available at all times, replacing the cooled one back into the warm liquid.
MICROWAVE COMPRESS: A tubelike microwavable compress can be purchased at most drugstores. These are reusable, reheatable compresses that are heated in the microwave and applied to sore areas, such as a sore neck. They are filled with a variety of substances such as heat-holding beads or sometimes uncooked rice or treated corn. Many have a looped handle on each end to grasp with hands. These may be used wet or dry, depending upon manufacturer instructions. To make a homemade microwavable compress, obtain a large men's tube sock at any department store and fill with uncooked dry rice. The cuff end can be sewed or tied shut to keep the rice from spilling out. Do not use safety pins as most microwaves do not work well with metal objects. I do not recommend wetting these homemade compresses, however, I have never tried using them wet so I am not sure if wetting them would cause the rice to cook and soften - which you don't want to do. Microwave the homemade compress for a few minutes (depending upon your microwave) and apply to the sore area that needs the heat. The uncooked dry rice is excellent for holding heat, is inexpensive, easy to work with and can be obtained at any supermarket. For a larger homemade compresses, 2 terrycloth wash cloths or hand towels, or squares of heavy flannel that can be sewed together and filled with uncooked rice and heated in the microwave. Adjust the time in the microwave accordingly, depending on size.
In place of using a rice sock (they can be quite heavy if they are large enough to retain heat well), you can use old fashioned oats in place of the rice in a homemade sock. Herbs can be added if desired, but these are not necessary. An oat sock smells clean and sweet when heated, retains the heat well and weighs considerably less. You can sew small loops of elastic at the ends so the person using it can either hold it in place if she wants or cloth ties or belts may be used to hold it in place. For more heat retention, the heated sock can be placed in a removable flannel sheath that velcros at one end and the elastic loops slip through.