DIY Heated Neck Pillow. A Dollar Store DIY

This easy to make pillow is filled with rice giving it a heavy weighted feeling that feels great around a stiff neck plus it heats up in the microwave until it’s toasty warm. 50% of people over the age of 45 have some kind of neck pain at least once a year. Probably on account of our brains being so heavy with information. 

When I started blogging 10 years ago my health went to crap. CRAP I say. Within months of working at a desk all day I got migraines, my shoulders became knotted like a macrame plant holder and my neck got so stiff I lost the ability to shake my head “no”.

This tragically led to the misconception I was agreeing to a lot of things I wasn’t. I now have the 24 month extended warranty on every electronic I’ve bought since then for instance.

After a few years, yes it really took me a few years, I started dealing with the correlation between sitting at a desk most of the day and my health. I started doing stretching exercises every day, built myself a GREAT  DIY treadmill desk,( you can read the tutorial on how to make your own for $250 here ),  and got regular Active Release Treatments (which hurt like hell).

I still get a stiff neck the odd time and the one thing that helps it is my heated neck pillow. Which is really just a couple of towels from the dollar store sewn into a bag and filled with rice.

DIY Heated Neck Pillow

You can make this out of any soft material. Flannel, cotton, linen, an old favourite pillow case, whatever you want.  I chose terry cloth because it’s thicker and so if the rice is really hot from heating up, there’s more of a buffer between you and the hot rice. 

When you choose what to use for your fabric make sure it has a tight enough weave that the rice and lavender won’t work its way out.




If you are absolutely and completely opposed to sewing you can use a longgg sock for this.  Just fill it and tie the end in a knot or fasten it with a string or rubber band.  The sleeve off an old sweater would work too.

 If your towel is really big, just sew the seam allowance that leaves you with a pillow that will be 18″ long by 5″ wide once sewn.

Cut off the excess seam allowance fabric.


Get your rice (I used 2 small bags for my pillow) and dried herbs.  Only use dried otherwise you’ll get a mouldy mess in your pillow.

I used lavender that someone had given me 2 years ago. It has become so brittle I can’t touch it without the flowers falling off so it will have a second life in this aromatherapy neck pillow.



Here I have lemongrass I dried in the oven and the  lavender.


Once your bag is filled with rice add 1/4 cup of the herb and sew the end of the bag up.


How to use the warming pillow.

To heat the bag put it in the microwave for a minute on high.  Remove the bag then shake it around.  Put it back in the microwave for another minute.  Repeat until it’s the temperature you want.

DIY Heated Neck Pillow.

DIY Heated Neck Pillow.

Yield: 1 neck pillow
Active Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Difficulty: Easy
Estimated Cost: $3

Like a little weighted blanket for your neck!


  • 1 terry cloth hand towel*
  • 1 bag of rice
  • 1/4 cup of dried lavender (optional)


  • Sewing machine or needle and thread.


  1. Remove the tag from your hand towel.
  2. Turn the terry cloth towel* inside out and fold in half lengthwise.
  3. Sew around the edge with a standard 5/8th seam allowance, leaving one end open to fill the pillow.
  4. Turn the pillow right side out.
  5. Fill the pillow 2/3rds with rice**.
  6. Add 1/4 cup of lavender flowers***.
  7. Turn in the edges of the open end and either hand or machine sew together.
  8. To heat the bag put it in the microwave for a minute on high.  Remove the bag then shake it around.  Put it back in the microwave for another minute.  Repeat until it’s the temperature you want.




*You can also use linen, cotton, old soft tee shirts, bed sheets … whatever material you find around the house that’s soft and not too stiff.

** Whole Oats or wheat will work as a filling as well.

*** Try mint, lemongrass, rose petals or any other nice smelling dried herb or flower.


(To dry lemongrass cut it into 4" lengths, then slice those pieces thinly lengthwise. Place on a cookie sheet and place in oven at lowest temperature possible. Leave oven door open so any moisture escapes. Remove from the oven when the lemongrass pieces are brittle, after 3 or 4 hours)


If any other part of you is sore you can use this just like a heating pad.  Heat it up, then rest it on your leg, arm or wherever.

I now have a loose neck, warm shoulders and he ability to shake my head no.  With God as my witness I will never buy an extended warranty again.

DIY Heated Neck Pillow.  A Dollar Store DIY


  1. Barbara says:

    What to do if you don’t have a microwave? Well, being practically ancient, I remember when I was a very young child and got an earache, my mom would heat salt in a cast iron skillet on the stove, pour it in a cloth bag, fold or pin it up securely, and place it on my ear for warmth. Seems like the principle would be the same for whatever you wanted to heat and add to your bag if you just made it with hmmm, maybe one Velcro end or an end you could fold over and pin. However, I really like Karen’s idea of adding fragrant herbs. Thanks!

  2. Myrna says:

    I made one out of a washcloth and I filled it with lentils. It was the perfect size for wrapping around my poor old wrist when the cast came off. Even tied it on to my wrist with a nice ribbon. When I needed a cold pack I used a Baggie filled with rubbing alcohol – close it up and wrap it around something and it partially freezes in just the shape you need. You could use vodka but vodka is better in a glass with a bit of something for flavour.

  3. Melissa in North Carolina says:

    I, too have been using neck warming pillows for years. I also use them on my knees, shoulders, lower back…etc. For you folks in cold places make mini pillows to stick in your coat pockets. They sure are nice when you stick cold hands in your coat pockets. I gave some to a teacher friend who has car duty in the morning. She loves them.

  4. Laura Bee says:

    At bedtime my daughter needs her “cozy bag” I made her. I use it on my neck & back too. alternating with ice when it’s really bad. Great tutorial – pinning it :)

  5. Elizabeth says:

    The Magic bag uses wheat berries. I know this because i opened mine up to dump the contents out to wash the cover.
    I have made these using various fillings and I think your rice took longer to heat up because the rice still has some moisture in it as opposed to the other bag which has been heated many times and has dried out. Some fillings I used even made the fabric slightly damp when they were warmed ( at first) The longer I use the homemade ones the more they work like the Magic bag.

  6. Heather says:

    I have been going for monthly massage & chiropractic treatments for years now initially due to a whiplash injury but those appointments now are life savers. If I miss a month my body seizes up horribly. But the absolutely best thing for aching muscles? YOGA. Yeah, I know you just love yoga, Karen. There are lots of stretches that can be done while at your desk, too. And you should get up from the desk at least every hour.

    Both the chiropractor and the therapist recommend alternating cold and heat – but make sure there is at least a 20 minute resting period between the change.

    I made some eye pillows out of flaxseed and lavender but I have never heated them. I have a store bought bag that I keep at work. The great thing about the shape of this one is that it is shaped like a “U” and the bottom of the “U” is wider & actually fits further down your back. You could do the same thing but you would need a slightly bigger piece of fabric/towel.

    On another note: if you suffer from any sore foot issues freeze a plastic water bottle, put it on the floor and roll your foot/feet over it. Great massage.

  7. Brian says:

    Happy New Year Karen…Say hi to your mom for me. My parents are back in Florida. They came back last week as my mom was not feeling well but jumped on the next flight back as soon as they could. They have not been home in January for some time now so it was a bit of a shock…
    Great Post! You are going to have a great year =)

  8. Ann says:

    Karen-so many of us suffer from this modern malady!! Thanks so much for mentioning the active release. I looked up providers in my area and there are 4. I am saving the info cause this is sometimes a horrible issue for me. I woke up Sunday morning in an awful state. I get very very nauseous when my neck stiffness really sets in. And because I left my really good pillow at a family member’s house when we travelled, my stiff neck was really bad. There are some great stretching techniques especially for neck stiffness that do help but they are not stretches readily known to most people. But never fear, new pillow has been purchased and that should help make a huge difference.

    • Jeanne Garman says:

      I would love to know which pillow works for your painful neck, Ann!

      • Ann says:


        I have already had this same pillow for 2 years and love it. It doesn’t totally keep me from having neck issues. But I can blame daytime activities for it and not how my neck is positioned during sleep. Here is the link to the official site. But I bought mine both times at Bed Bath and Beyond with a coupon to help cut the cost.

        They say they are guaranteed for 10 years but at 2 years I was thinking it was time to replace the one I had. Or at least get a new one and keep the older one as back up. They may be expensive but before I bought my first one, I probably spent twice that much every year on pillows that were worthless. So it is actually a bargain to not be buying pillows every other month.

      • Karen says:

        I’m not sure i could buy based solely on the fact that they guy hugging the pillow on the home page is terrifying. Also there weren’t any prices, but I’ll check on Amazon for one. Thanks Ann! ~ karen

      • Patti says:

        Lol That guy is the creator of the mypillow. I think it runs around $60 and QVC sells it too. Not sure if this is the elusive perfect pillow I’m always in search of and $60 is kinda steep for me to try it. I’ll probably wait to see if it comes down in price a little bit.

    • Karen says:

      I’m *very* familiar with that neck stiffness and the nausea that comes with it! It’s awful and pretty much incapacitating. ~ karen!

  9. Cassandra says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I just started back to school after to many years to finish my degree. My whole body is sore from sitting at a desk every evening after working with little ones. I truly fell for you with working from a desk all day.

  10. Jennifer says:

    What about that FABULOUS painting in the back ground? LOVE it- was that a DIY?
    if so, I need to get on that- and so sorry to hear they are closing TARGET in Canada….

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Jennifer. It’s actually realllyyy old. I got it at Homesense. (Homegoods to the Americans out there4). I was just starting to think I was sick of it when you went and said you liked it, lol. ~ karen!

  11. karen says:

    I went for a massage today and the therapist told me to put a few drops of lavender oil on the tight spots (which she said were as solid as concrete!)of my shoulders and neck. Sounds like the universe is telling me “lavender” is to go on my shopping list☺

  12. Vicki says:

    Question… what if you don’t own a microwave?

    • Shelley says:

      I was going to ask that too. We ditched our microwave several years ago, and this is the only problem I have run into since. I have heated one up in a baking dish on top of the woodstove. Certainly not quick, and only doable in winter, but that’s the only solution I have come up with so far.

      • Dea says:

        I left a comment about what to do if you don’t have a microwave — use a drug store rubber hot water bottle. Check below for my comment on making a towel hot water bottle cover. Karen’s such a genius! I love the idea of terrycloth towels rather than my old tube stocks.

      • Patricia says:

        Preheat oven to 350 for 10 minutes. Wrap pack in foil (shiny side in). Turn off oven and place wrapped pack in oven for 10 minutes. Remove from foil before using. Pat

    • Karen says:

      Then you do not do this Vicki, lol. I’m sure there’s a way to heat things on the stove, but it would be a pain and it would be really difficult to do without cooking whatever it is you’re heating. If you’re really set on it I’d probably use lentils. Pour them on a bakin gsheet and warm them in the oven at the lowest setting possible. Then pour them in your premade bag. You’d have to leave an opening for pouring and possibly use sew on velcro for opening and closing it often. ~ karen!

  13. Karen says:

    I make these bags using animal feed corn. I believe it holds the heat even longer than rice. You can use regular popcorn, just heat it for a minute the first few times, so you don’t pop the corn. After the first few times it will be “dead” and won’t pop. Although I love them to ease sore muscles, they are fantastic to stash at the foot of my bed to warm my tootsies when I crawl into those freezing sheets.

    • Leah C says:

      I also make them from feed corn (also called whole corn, deer corn, or field corn, depending on the store) and they are wonderful. My sister and I have made dozens of these in cotton bags, with an outer (removable and washable) cotton cover. They make great gifts! :)

    • Darla says:

      I heard that himalayan crystals are used fir these heat wraps . i’m making my father one and need to know if i need to add the crystals to the rice so it wish stay hot longer that way ? Thanks for the information

  14. Marna says:

    I have the same issue, partly age related, have severe arthritis. I use heat and cold, and recently found out if you use a cold pack, rub it in circles on problem area, you get the benefit of both heat and cold. The heat is from rubbing, which increases circulation, and the cold reduces swelling. I do this on several areas and it does work. I do prefer the heat during winter though. :)

  15. Grammy says:

    Thank you! My husband has all of the problems of a desk potato even though he does active exercise every single day. A large portion of my freezer holds a variety of cold packs in all sizes, and it seems I’m always stumbling upon all the sundry heat packs he stashes around the house in plain sight. They’re all so ugly. He loves pretty much anything I tell him I crafted myself out of dryer lint and dental floss, so I’m thinking a “rustic” fabric tube full of rice would catch his fancy, and I can just make a few and secretly “lose” the ugly store-bought things one at a time.

  16. Bobbie S says:

    PS: Had to laugh RE: the temp comparisons. When DH is chef de cuisine he takes the temperature of everything that’s cooking. Ask me how many thermometers are in the kitchen drawer… LOL

  17. Bobbie S says:

    NOW she tells me…. After burning up a store bought job and buying another one to replace said burned one, I am sticking with my mangy old tube sock filled with rice…. soon to receive 1/4 C of lavender. Although now that the sewing machine is out (Christmas – American Girl clothes) I ought to follow in your footsteps and make a decent cover. Thank you for the super tutorial.
    PS: How are the girls? Did they get good presents from Santa? Hope I didn’t miss a vital post about them and they’re OK.

    • Karen says:

      They’re doing O.K. Bobbie. Although Cuddles isn’t eating as much as I would like. Josephine is the only one laying right now with Cheez Whiz throwing out the odd egg. ~ karen!

  18. Katbert says:

    You make practical look so beautiful. Lavender…who would have thought. And you have a Bernina sewing machine! Do they cost a TON of money? Or was I just left left with that impression when I was 8 years old and my frugal mother hauled us to to a sewing machine store 60 miles away from the town we lived in before purchasing this apparatus. I thought she was buying a Cadillac … or the moon! … No mother issues here! Lavender … relax … ohhhmmm …

    • Karen says:

      I *do* have a Bernina! And it sews a lot better than my old Janome. They come in different models with different price points. Like a Cadillac. ;) I got mine for Christmas from Betty (my mother) 3 years ago. She always complains that she thinks I’ve never used it because I haven’t sewn outfits for a marching band out of it or something. ~ karen!

      • Pati Gulat says:

        Karen, I got my mom’s machine when I graduated. She sewed my baby clothes on it and yes, it IS electric ! Two Christmases ago, she had it refurbished. I love it and just so you know, I’ve shied away from uniforms as well… Lol

  19. Valerie says:

    An alternate suggestion:
    My neck and upper back suffer when I am at my computer as well. At the insistence of my partner I tried a cold pack right out of the freezer. I made a terry cloth cover similar to your rice bag and put the ice pack in place. The pain and discomfort ceased in 5 minutes. If you have a cold pack in your freezer you may want to try that if the rice pack seems not to be working for you. It seems counterintuitive to use cold on a sore body part but for me it is more effective.

    • Karen says:

      That’s true. From what I know of this (which is very little) cold is perfect for reducing swelling while warmth loosens up stiffness. Or something like that, lol. ~ karen!

      • mimiindublin says:

        You’re right re warm loosens and cold reduces swelling Karen.
        You can also use lavender essential oil on the neck cushion; put 3 drops on it after you take it out of the microwave. Only needs to be replenished once a week or so.

      • Karen says:

        Great idea mimi! ~ karen

      • Ev Wilcox says:

        Years ago I worked for a physical therapy clinic. I learned to use hot, then cold, for many muscle aches. But remember to do this for only 20 minutes at a time. The hot loosens up the muscles and the cold quiets the little pain buddies! You can do this several times a day if needed, but not back-to-back.

  20. Julie says:

    Another (less pretty option) is to use a tube sock. Just fill it up and knot the end.

    • Karen says:

      Indeed, lol. That’s why I mentioned it halfway through the post. You’re a skimmer aren’t you Julie? Admit it. Dirty old skimmer. Now if you’ll excuse me I have a book to skim before I go to bed. Ha! ~ karen

      • Julie says:

        omg. I’m so sorry!! I got caught!! Darn kids! I blame them. I had to rush through your post so I could put them to bed. =)

      • Karen says:

        lol! ~ karen

      • Kim from Milwaukee says:

        I think that’s why people have kids…so they can use them for excuses all the time and no one is the wiser! LOL And then people like me look like meanies for saying this….

  21. kelly l says:

    Just in time! A few weeks ago I woke up saw a few black spots on my sheet. I travel a lot and I’m always terrified I’ll get bed bugs. I thought, “oh no!”

    I sat up to look more closely and now I saw about 10 little “bugs” and I thought, “OH NO NO NO!”

    I scooted over and there were hundreds of them! I thought, “I’m going to have to burn my house down!”

    But part of my brain was thinking, “huh, I didn’t think they came out daylight…”

    That’s when I realized I had fallen asleep with my neck warmernon that was filled with flax seeds! It had gotten a hole in it overnight and my bed, thankfully, was filled with flax seed!

    Time for a new one. Rice seems like a good idea.

  22. Penny says:

    I’ve bought a million of these and made a few. They’re all wonderful until I inevitably over heat them. Always an adventure.

    • Diana says:

      Hi Penny,
      to prevent over heating I put a Cup of water into the microwave too. But in my pillow are cherry kernels…
      what will happen with uncooked rice, hhhmmm- maybe a delicious meal, ;o)

  23. Michelle says:

    Two things that have helped me with problems similar to yours are a standing desk, and yoga. Love your homemade remedy too! Hope you’re feeling much better!

  24. Bobbi says:

    I forgot to say…Great tutorial making the bag! I never would have thought to use a towel! I bought a ton of flannel to make flax bags for Chriatmas gifts, which never happened. But hey, there’s always next year!

  25. Bobbi says:

    Flax works great as well. The oil in the flax heats up quicker and stays warm longer. The only thing is that flax has a very distinct nutty smell that some could find unpleasant. My girls go to bed every night snuggled up to their flax bags!

    • Sara B says:

      Nice tutorial :) I made a similar one, but didn´t have essential oils, but had a bunch of herbs in the garden. So I just let them dry and filled them up along with some seeds instead of rice. I like the material you used, but if anyone is interested I am leaving the YouTube link :) Have a nice day.

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