- 25 Oct Hot and Cold Packs/Showers
- Types of Headaches
- Home Treatments
- Keep a Record
- When to Get Emergency Care
- When to Call the Doctor
- Follow-Up Appointment
- Naturopathic Treatment for Migraine Headache
- Naturopathic Migraine Treatment
- How & What You Eat Can Cause Migraines
- Nutritional Supplements for the Relief of Migraines
- Physical Medicine for Migraines
- Miscellaneous Treatment Options for Migraines
- Migraines & Your Environment
- How to Treat a Migraine with Ice and Heat
- How to Treat a Migraine (Acute) Attack with Ice and Heat
- How to Treat a Migraine By Being Proactive
- How to Treat a Migraine Using Everyday Things That Help
- My Migraine Pain Management Course includes meditation for migraines. Sign up now, the first module is free.
- Want More Help Treating Your Migraines?
- Before you go… get your FREE migraine savvy tool kit
- Will Soaking Your Feet in Hot Water Relieve a Migraine?
- Can this trick really help?
- When to use a comfort measure
- Putting it all into perspective
- Q: How do you know when to apply heat or cold to relieve pain?
- Can Ice Packs Treat Headaches?
- Is ice an effective remedy for headaches or migraines?
- What’s the best way to use an ice pack to treat a headache or a migraine?
- The bottom line
- When to Use Cold and Hot Compress for Headaches
- Hot or Cold Compress for Migraine? Why Not a Permanent Solution?
- Hot and Cold Therapy for Migraine Relief
- Applying Heat or Cold for Migraine Relief
25 Oct Hot and Cold Packs/Showers
Posted at 17:51h in Headache Fact Sheets by headache
Ice and heat can be used to lessen the pain of headaches. In general, most sufferers with migraine headache prefer cold packs. Sufferers with tension-type or muscle contraction headaches may prefer warm packs. It depends on the individual sufferer. The same cold or warm principles apply to showers.
Caution should be exercised in using warm packs or showers to ensure that they are not too hot. Overly hot showers or packs can sometimes cause the opposite effect desired by inducing muscle spasm and, in extreme cases, cause burns. Do not fall asleep with a heating pad on. Alternate ice for 15 minutes on, 15 minutes off.
Cold packs should be applied on forehead and temples, warm packs on neck and posterior part of head.
Some over-the-counter products (Mentholatum Migraine Ice, Excedrin Cooling Pads) are available that apply a warm or cold feeling to the skin. These can be worn during a headache attack.
Hot and cold treatments can be used safely in addition to medications and other therapies recommended by your healthcare provider.
A headache is one of the most common complaints of children and teenagers. Fussiness, crankiness and not being able to sleep may be the only signs of head pain in children who are too young to tell you where they hurt.
There are many different types of headaches. Each type may be treated differently. A detailed history and physical exam help figure out what kind of headache your child has. All members of the family (mother, father and child, if possible) should help give the medical history.
Types of Headaches
Tension Headache – This is a less common and least serious type of headache. It happens when the muscles in the head and neck tighten and ache. Your child may say the pain feels like a tight band around the head. Emotional stress and getting too tired are the two most common causes. Family conflicts, school problems and peer pressures may add to everyday stress. Tension headaches can be a result of these pressures.
Congestion Headache – These headaches occur with viral infections (such as colds and flu) and usually stop when the illness is over. Sinus congestion and infections can cause head pain around the eyes and nose.
Medication Overuse or Analgesic Rebound Headache – This type of headache is becoming more common. When a child or teen-ager with headaches takes pain medicine too often, the headaches may become more frequent and more painful. Taking pain medicine for headaches more than twice a week for several weeks may cause this type of headache.
Headaches After a Head Injury – Headaches are common after a head injury. They are usually mild and go away within a week. Sometimes, though, the pain may occur for several weeks or months after an injury. Refer to the Helping Hand: Head Injury (HH-I-41 or HH-I-42) if the injury occurred in the last 24 to 48 hours.
Headaches with Dental Problems (such as jawbone joint problems) – This is an unusual cause of headache in children. The child may have jaw pain or discomfort, pain in the temples and a clicking sound when opening the jaw. Grinding of the teeth may cause this type of headache. A dental exam should be done.
Migraine Headache – This is a severe type of headache and is not discussed in this Helping Hand. If your child has Headache Migraine, your doctor will give you more information after a thorough physical exam and medical history are done.
The best treatment for a mild, occasional headache is rest and relaxation. Giving ibuprofen (such as Motrin® or Advil®) may give your child relief. Ask your pharmacist, doctor or nurse for the right dosage. Do not give aspirin or other medicines unless directed by your child’s doctor. Use heat or cold, whichever helps your child the most.
Do not give medicine too often. Giving medicine for headache pain too often may cause the headache to occur more often and be more severe. Don’t give pain medicine for headache more than 2 times per week. If it is given more often for several weeks, the headache may get worse.
Apply a cold compress. Place a cold, wet washcloth or ice wrapped in a washcloth on the head or neck (Picture 1). Don’t place ice directly on the skin because it can damage the skin.
Apply heat. Place a warm – not hot – wet washcloth on the head or neck, or have your child take a warm shower.
Keep a Record
Keep a record of the headaches over a period of time. This will help the doctor decide on a plan of treatment for your child. (Use the Headache Records on pages 4 and 5.)
When to Get Emergency Care
Take your child to an emergency room immediately if your child has:
Sudden, severe head pain happening for the first time – especially if the child has double vision (sees 2 of things), seems confused, sleepy (hard to wake up), has numbness or projectile vomiting (vomit shoots out of the mouth).
Headache with a stiff neck, or complaints of neck pain, especially with a fever.
When to Call the Doctor
Call your child’s doctor if any of these things occur:
Daily headaches, especially if they interfere with school or play.
Headaches caused by straining from coughing, sneezing, running or having a bowel movement.
Headaches that occur along with pain in the eye or ear, confusion, nausea or vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, or numbness.
Headaches that keep coming back and get worse.
Headaches similar to those suffered by other family members.
Headaches following a head injury that don’t go away after a week.
Headaches severe enough to wake the child from sleep.
Make sure your child gets plenty of rest.
Serve meals at regular times (don’t let your child skip meals).
Your child should drink plenty of liquids, especially water. Sports drinks may also be given.
Make sure your child gets regular exercise.
Try to keep your child from feeling too much stress. Encourage your child to talk openly with you so you’re aware of what’s troubling him or her.
Some children are sensitive to certain foods. It may help to avoid these foods for a while to see if the headaches go away: Chocolate, cured meats such as hot dogs and bacon, aged cheeses, fried foods, caffeine (found in coffee, tea, and colas).
The doctor will want to see your child for follow-up. It is important to keep these appointments.
Please bring the Headache Record (PDF) with you when you see the doctor.
Headaches in Children (PDF)
HH-I-158 6/92, Revised 3/12 Copyright 1992-2012, Nationwide Children’s Hospital
Naturopathic Treatment for Migraine Headache
Naturopathic Migraine Treatment
Migraine headaches are caused by excessive dilation of the cerebral blood vessels, though scientists do not fully understand what causes the dilation in the first place. Blood vessels don’t just dilate spontaneouslythey are presumably responding to chemical changes that are occurring in the body.
A naturopathic physician or holistic medical doctor will want to take a complete medical, family, menstrual, and diet history before considering the cause of migraine. Some of the illnesses to be ruled out are bowel problems, mold allergies, vitamin deficiencies, hypertension, TMJ misalignment, food allergies or intolerances, dehydration, spinal subluxations, coffee/caffeine intoxication, and aspartame (Nutrasweet, Equal) toxicity among others. All of these problems can cause migraine symptoms and usually can be treated without the use of drugs.
Paradoxical as it may seem, a surprising percentage of migraine headaches may be caused by migraine medication. The “rebound effect” of analgesic and ergotomine compounds has been implicated as a contributing factor for sufferers of daily headaches. Discuss this phenomenon with your prescribing doctor if you are taking more than 30 analgesic tablets a month or if you regularly use ergotamine derivatives. Withdrawal from these products can temporarily make headaches worse, but eliminating these products altogether may ultimately mean no more headaches ever.
How & What You Eat Can Cause Migraines
When exploring the causes of headaches, the easiest place to start is diet. Food reactions are a significant contributor to headaches and some improvement in symptoms, if not complete remission, can always be achieved by eliminating problematic dietary items. The elimination/challenge trial is a good way to identify food reactions that may be causing your headaches.
Foods that most commonly induce migraines:
- cow’s milk
- benzoic acid
- tartrazine (yellow food dye)
Foods like cheese, beer, and wine induce migraines in some people because they contain histamines and/or vasoactive compounds that cause blood vessels to expand. Women tend to react to histamine-containing foods more frequently than men do, on account of a deficiency in an enzyme (diamine oxidase) that breaks histamine down. Taking supplemental B6 may be helpful in these situations, as it can increase diamine oxidase activity.
Nitrites, which are common ingredients in lunch meats and smoked/cured meats, dilate blood vessels, and may trigger migraine.
Nutritional Supplements for the Relief of Migraines
- Wobenzyme: 5 tablets 3 times a day between meals; or, if this dose causes loose stools, 3 tablets 5 times a day
- Magnesium citrate: 250mg to 500mg 3 times a day with meals
- Vitamin B6: 25mg 3 times a day with meals; vitamin B6 supports the enzymatic breakdown of histamine.
- 5-HTP (5- Hydroxytryptophan): 100mg to 200mg 3 times a day; 5-HTP increases seritonin and endorphin levels in the brain and has been shown to be as effective as commonly used migraine drugs and with none of the side effects.
Physical Medicine for Migraines
- Submerge the feet in a bucket of very hot water while applying an ice compress to the back of the neck. This actually draws the blood down to the feet away from the head. Reduction of pain coincides with the duration of application.
- Acupressure can be helpful. See a trained acupressure therapist for instructions on procedures to do at home.
- Chiropractic adjustments and maintaining correct spinal alignment can be very supportive in the prevention of headaches that are triggered by muscle stress and spasm.
Miscellaneous Treatment Options for Migraines
- Intravenous magnesium: IV magnesium can be very helpful for migraine patients who have low-grade magnesium deficiencies. Physician monitoring is needed for this procedure.
- Biofeedback therapy: Look for a certified biofeedback practitioner to learn how to reduce pain with a relaxation response that is as effective as Inderol without the side effects.
- TENS Unit: Electrical nerve stimulation units can reduce muscle spasm in patients with tension and migraine headaches. A health care practitioner’s prescription is needed for insurance coverage of these units, which should be available through medical supply companies. Some chiropractors and physical therapists loan these devices out to patients for a small deposit.
- Acupuncture: Acupuncture can balance underlying hormonal deficiencies, tone the gastrointestinal system, and calm reactive blood vessels.
A word of caution: When selecting an acupuncturist, be very careful to research the training and qualifications of your practitioner. Medical doctors can take weekend courses in acupuncture and call themselves certified acupuncturists. A weekend course is NOT enough to time to understand the complex philosophy or practice of Chinese medicine. These doctors can do harm, so be careful.
Choose a practitioner who holds a full doctorate degree in Chinese medicine, an O.M.D. (Oriental Medicine Doctor), or Lic.Ac (licensed acupuncturist). These practitioners are required to complete several years of training and often have completed internships in China, Japan, or Korea. The letters TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) after the name means that the doctor has additional training in prescribing Chinese herbs. The more knowledge a practitioner has about Chinese medicine and its supporting philosophy, the more able they are to diagnose and treat your symptoms. Also, as with all health care practitioners, check their practice’s reputation in the community.
Migraines & Your Environment
Migraines can be agonizing, debilitating, and scary. The inclination to “make the pain go away now” can, ironically, be an obstacle to curing the pain. Migraines do not just happenthey are not a random occurrence. They are your body interacting with its environment. Explore your environment to determine what is upsetting your internal balance, and you can learn how to control your headaches and prevent them from ever recurring.
Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.
Published: 01 Jan 2000
Last Modified: 25 Sep 2015
How to Treat a Migraine with Ice and Heat
At the same time! How to treat a migraine effectively is somewhat of a mystery even to doctors. Your doctor can prescribe a medication to reduce the pain phase, but there are no guarantees that medication will work with your unique body to stop the chain reactions that make up a migraine attack.
How to treat a migraine with ice and heat at the same time.
A change of diet and lifestyle promises a ‘cure’ or at least a good form of proactive prevention … but what happens in reality?
What happens when the migraine is progressing and you need fast relief? This is a strategy you can read now and implement in a few minutes.
Every single person on the planet will experience a headache at some time in their lives.
I don’t think anyone can escape a headache, or perhaps even a hangover at some point in their life.
But migraines are different, and chronic migraines are different again.
They are not just typical headaches, but they do fall under this medical classification which can cause confusion.
Migraine is a complex neurological condition that needs proper medical treatment. If you can get rid of your ‘migraine’ using an over the counter pain killer, then it is most likely not a migraine.
The best natural treatment I have found on how to treat a migraine was from Dr. Christiane Northrup. She is/was a migraine sufferer herself, so she can advise patients the best way to treat a migraine and hopefully abort it before medications are needed.
Her treatment strategy involves using ice and heat at the same time.
How to Treat a Migraine (Acute) Attack with Ice and Heat
I’ve tried so many different combinations I couldn’t begin to count them, and I can tell you with great relief that this really can stop a mild attack, if you act fast enough. And it certainly comforted me during the intense nasty attacks too.
Even though I need a triptan and ibuprofen in order to abort an attack, I still use this strategy.
1. Take action at the first sign of neurological disturbance which, for me, typically involves one or both eye’s. I feel pressure (like they are being crushed in a vice). You might also experience: blurry vision, zig zags in the air, and or lightning bolts in your peripheral vision.
Depending on what migraine type you are diagnosed with, this is the time to take your prescribed abortive medication or over the counter pain killer (if you take them) and go to bed in a very dark room. If you are light sensitive you might also benefit from using an eye pillow to cover your eyes for complete light blockout.
2. Put a hot water bottle on your stomach and rest your hands under it. It is essential that your hands are warmed.
3. Put an ice pack behind your neck. It is essential that your neck is iced.
4. Also keep your feet warm with a blanket.
Dr. Northrup says that “cooling the blood traveling to the brain through your neck and warming your hands helps prevent the powerful vasoconstriction and rebound vasodilation that results in headache pain.” Doing these things all at the same time has the potential to abort your attack. But you must act at the first sign your body gives you.
She also says that the most widely used effective medications are “sumatriptan nasal spray or rectal indomethacin.” Indomethacin is classed as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) and it “works by reducing hormones that cause inflammation and pain in the body.”
The nasal spray and rectal methods are more effective because they bypass the slow digestion and work regardless of how nauseous you are and if you experience vomiting.
How to Treat a Migraine By Being Proactive
Avoiding food triggers is an everyday thing that most migraineurs are aware of if they have food triggers.
Taking high quality supplements might help you. The two most highly recommended supplements thought to help with migraines are magnesium and fish oil.
1. Magnesium – with its calming effect on nerves has been shown to help prevent migraines. As per Dr. Northrup the dose is between 400 – 800 mgs per day. As per the Nutrition Almanac a safe dose is 1000 mgs per day. Check with your doctor if you want to pursue this as a prevention strategy.
2. Fish Oil – with its anti-inflammatory effects has shown a “significant reduction of headache” when taken in these high doses daily for 3 weeks. As per Dr. Northrup the dose is a combination of 2.7 grams of EPA and 1.8 grams of DHA. The Nutrition Almanac recommends taking ginger with the fish oil to help reduce nausea and aid digestion.
The Nutrition Almanac (1998) says that this kind of migraine help in the form of vitamin therapy can take from 6 months to 2 years in some migraine sufferers to become effective at reducing episodes.
Making lifestyle changes will serve you well.
How to Treat a Migraine Using Everyday Things That Help
Besides the above acute treatment using ice and heat simultaneously, let’s talk about how to treat a migraine and prevent further attacks by establishing some lifestyle changes:
Here are some things to use every day that help. @migrainesavvy
1. Keep a migraine journal – and not just a food list. When you get a migraine, write down what you can remember about the last three days. Who visited, or who made you angry at work? Did anything bother you? Did anyone bother you? Did you miss a meal, or have a bad night’s sleep? By keeping track you might see a pattern emerge.
2. Keep regular eating and sleeping routines. Wake up and go to sleep at the same time every day, and yes – even on weekends – no sleeping in.
And eat regular and nutritional meals. Snack throughout the day between meals to keep your blood sugar levels balanced. Never skip meals. You might like to read my article on migraine headaches nutrition.
3. Practice relaxation techniques. Keep it simple. Exhale as much as you can and let the breath come back in and take a full, deep breath. Hold it for 5 – 10 seconds, don’t let stress happen, just let it be comfortable, and then slowly breathe out. If you can, repeat this up to ten times and close your eyes.
I use relaxation CDs – for some of my favorite ones. And there are a few meditation audios in my migraine pain management course… here’s the link.
My Migraine Pain Management Course includes meditation for migraines. Sign up now, the first module is free.
If you are at work, make sure to take regular breaks from the computer or repetitive tasks, or hide in the bathroom and do your breathing. Walk around the block if you can. Make sure you breathe deeply everyday. Herbert Benson, M.D. has written a fabulous book called The Relaxation Response if you are interested in learning more.
4. Try biofeedback training. The aim is to help you learn to relax. I know this may sound nothing like migraine help, but stress raises levels of norepinephrine in the blood which can trigger a migraine in us susceptible folks. So biofeedback helps prevent the neurotransmitter changes that can trigger a migraine.
5. If you haven’t already – stop smoking. Smoking is known to cause blood vessel constriction. Nasty mix for migraineurs.
6. Walking or moderate exercise on a regular basis can help reduce migraines. Exercise is known to create good endorphins – the feel good hormone – and stimulate pain regulating hormones in our brains. This is a cheap and easy form of migraine help. Walking is free.
7. Sleeping can often help with migraine attacks. I know this is not always possible, but if you can, try to get home asap or find somewhere (a dark room) to rest and sleep it off.
Want More Help Treating Your Migraines?
If you want more help finding effective treatments for your migraines, then stay in touch by joining the mailing list.
How To Treat A Migraine References:
1. Drugs.com (2012) indomethacin , Available at: http://www.drugs.com/mtm/indomethacin.html Accessed March 25, 2012.
2. Kirschmann G. and Kirschmann J. (1998) Nutrition Almanac (4th Ed.). McGraw Hill International Editions: Singapore.
3. Northrup, C. M.D. (2012) Migraines , Available at: http://www.drnorthrup.com/migraines/ Accessed on Feb 2, 2016.
4. Wikipedia (updated 10 Jan 2012) How to Treat a Migraine , Available at: http://www.wikihow.com/Treat-a-Migraine
- Migraine Treatment Options
- How to Treat a Migraine with Ice and Heat
Before you go… get your FREE migraine savvy tool kit
Join the mailing list and download my free tool kit with everything you need to get started to help reduce anxiety, manage pain and prevent your next attack.
Will Soaking Your Feet in Hot Water Relieve a Migraine?
You’ve probably seen that photo on social media. It depicts a woman sitting on a counter with her feet soaking in the sink basin and an ice pack on the back of her head. The photo claims that soaking your feet in hot water while using an ice pack on your head will relieve the pain of a migraine attack.
Every time I see that image, I cringe. The comments alone drive me crazy. Too many people take the image literally and make comments about their inability to perch on the edge of the sink. I want to scream, “That’s not the freaking point!” but truthfully, no one is listening.
I’ve lost count of the number of images, memes, articles, and helpful tips I’ve been sent by well-meaning loved ones. They really do want to help me, so I try to be gracious. I try to educate them, too. Most of the time my words fall on deaf ears, but once in a while, someone will actually pay attention. It is because of these rare moments that I still make an effort. So, back to the topic at hand.
Can this trick really help?
I had a chiropractor suggest something similar many years ago. Frankly, it was the only helpful thing he offered. His version included wrapping my feet in a heating pad while lying down with an ice pack on my head. I can’t explain why it helped, but it did. The attack was not aborted, but the pain did ease up. Since that first attempt, I have always included this strategy as a comfort measure.
When to use a comfort measure
There are two times when I make use of comfort measures. First, I will use these strategies at the first sign of trouble. Most often, I will grab a wearable ice pack moments before I take one of my triptans to abort the attack. The cold eases my symptoms while I wait for the medicine to do its job. Second, on the rare occasion that acute treatment fails to abort the attack, I will use comfort measures to help me cope with symptoms until the attack subsides. The longer the attack, the more strategies I will use.
Some other comfort measures
- Ice packs
- Heating pads
- Counter pressure
- Ginger or peppermint tea
- Pain relieving ointments
- TENS units
- Sleep masks
- Ear plugs
- Anti-nausea medications
- Muscle relaxers
- Tinted glasses
Putting it all into perspective
A comfort measure will not abort the neurological processes we call a migraine attack. Sometimes we get lucky and a comfort measure will actually eliminate a symptom (like pain or nausea). That alone can make us feel much better. It’s worth building a toolkit full of such options and keeping it close at all times. It’s good to start by thinking about all the times you’ve had a migraine attack. What did you crave? What was readily available and what was hard to find? If wrapping your feet in a heating pad or soaking them in hot water helps, then make sure to include that heating pad in your toolkit. Just don’t expect it to get rid of the attack entirely.
It’s hard to get through life without straining a muscle, spraining a ligament, suffering a headache or wrenching your . And the longer you’re on the planet, the more susceptible you are to arthritis. When something hurts, will ice or heat make it feel better? Here’s what our experts advise:
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
In this infographic, our experts explain when to use ice, when to use heat and why:
- Sports injuries: “Ice seems cold, mean and uncomfortable. Heat seems warm, comfy and cozy,” says sports and exercise medicine physician Anne Rex, DO. “But ice wins for acute pain, inflammation and swelling. Heat perpetuates the cycle of inflammation and can be harmful.” Adds Sports Health physical therapist Carol Ferkovic Mack, DPT, SCS, CSCS: “Moist heat helps to loosen injured muscles before activity or stretching. Icing afterward can minimize pain.”
- Headaches: “Cold masks or wraps over the forehead, eyes and temples help the throbbing pain of a migraine,” says neurologist Jennifer Kriegler, MD. Ice is preferred, but heat wraps can halt neck spasms that contribute to headache.
- Arthritis: Heat wins for arthritis and injuries that linger more than six weeks. “Patients with more chronic osteoarthritis usually feel better with heat,” says rheumatologist Linda Mileti, MD. But for acute gout flares, she favors ice.
You can apply ice and heat in lots of ways. Our experts generally recommend up to 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off:
- Ice packs: Frozen peas or corn, ice cubes in a baggie or frozen gel pack. You can ice beyond 48 hours, until swelling, tenderness or inflammation are gone.
- Ice massage: Freeze water in a Dixie cup, peel back the top, and massage the tender area until it’s numb. (Best for targeted icing after injury or for areas too awkward for ice packs, like the elbow or heel).
- Cold masks: Place a cold mask, available at drugstores, over your eyes or lay a towel soaked in cold water over your forehead and temples.
- Moist heat: Enjoy a bath, shower, hot tub or whirlpool using warm, not hot, water (92-100°).
- Heat wraps: Drape a heat wrap, available at drugstores, around your neck like a scarf (great for work or travel).
- Heating pads: To avoid burns, remove heating pads if the area becomes uncomfortably warm.
When to use caution
Paraffin wax treatments supply moist heat but overheating can cause burns. (Treatments are labor-intensive and supplies are pricey, too.)
“Use caution on areas with decreased sensation if you have neuropathy (from diabetes or another condition) or Raynaud’s syndrome,” says Dr. Mack. Extreme temperatures can damage skin.
Wonder if it’s safe to use ice when you’re burning up with fever? “There’s nothing wrong with using cold to bring down a fever,” says Dr. Kriegler.
Q: How do you know when to apply heat or cold to relieve pain?
A: Choosing between hot and cold therapy for common aches and injuries can be tricky. In general, cold helps minimize inflammation, and heat helps relax muscles, joints, and blood vessels.
Cold is usually best for a fresh injury, like a bruise or a sprain. Applying ice or a cold pack immediately reduces swelling by causing blood vessels to constrict. Cold should only be used for the first 48 hours or so after an injury.
For chronic or recurring pain, you want more blood in the area because it contains oxygen and nutrients that help healing. That’s when heat should be applied to help open blood vessels.
RELATED VIDEO: Guide to Heat vs. Cold for Healing
People usually reach for the ice to soothe a burn, but too much cold can slow healing by cutting off blood. Instead, try cool water initially, then switch to slightly warm water – it will still be cooler than burned skin.
Bug bites and things that itch generally respond best to cold, which can help reduce swelling.
Not all arthritis pain is alike. Stiff joints respond to heat, which stimulates blood flow and loosens the connective tissue. But when arthritis pain is more of a burning sensation, applying cold briefly may help reduce pain and swelling.
Headaches vary too. A tension headache may benefit from applying heat to tight muscles in the neck or jaw. On the other hand, vascular headaches, including migraines, do better with cold.
Whether you use hot or cold therapy, here are some important safety tips:
- Make sure the temperature is not extreme.
- Keep a towel between your skin and the heat/cold source.
- Don’t apply heat/cold for more than 15-20 minutes at a time.
- Watch for burns or if your skin becomes numb, blistered, or red.
- Never apply to broken or irritated skin.
- Avoid cold therapy if you have circulatory problems.
If applying heat or cold isn’t helping or your symptoms worsen, then consult a doctor.
Do you have a health-related question for Dr. Gupta? You can submit it here. For more health news and advice, visit Health Matters With Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
A migraine is one of the most common causes of recurring debilitating headaches in the UK, with one in seven people suffering from them – of which 60% are women. Symptoms vary from person to person, dependent on severity and some may get symptoms prior to developing a full-blown migraine, such as visual disturbance, known as an aura. If your migraines are occurring on a more regular basis, keeping a migraine diary is an effective way to document any links between triggers and migraines.
When you’re suffering with a migraine attack, try out the below tips to help you ease the excruciating pain…
One of the most avoidable causes of a migraine is dehydration. If you’re dehydrated, your blood volume drops, which in turn lowers the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain. You might also feel dizzy – another symptom of dehydration. Sit down, and constantly sip water to rehydrate your brain in a steady manner to avoid any chance of vomiting.
The light can be painful for anyone suffering with a headache, but for a migraine it can be debilitating. If you can, when a migraine strikes go into a quiet dark room and rest. Shutting yourself off from the hectic day will help the strain in your head calm down. If you’re at work and unable to find a dark room, turn away from your computer screen and wear sunglasses – even a slight reduction of light will help in your endeavour to treat your migraine.
3. Hot and cold compress
If you suffer with regular migraines, you may have your own quirks when it comes to temperature therapy. For some, applying a cold compress can constrict vessels and relieve some pressure that is causing the throbbing headache. On the other hand, the cold tends to tighten muscles which pinches nerves and enlarges blood vessels, so a warm compress is preferred to act as a muscle relaxant.
Place either an icepack or a hot towel on your forehead, temples or the back of the neck to relieve the pressure and relax the muscles. Alternatively, try alternating the temperatures from hot to cold, or put your feet in warm water and rest a cold flannel on your heard.
4. Seek urgent medical attention
When experiencing acute episodes of a migraine, be aware of red flag signs that fail to respond to standard treatment. If you have a sudden severe headache, a reduced level of consciousness, vomiting, a weakness of limbs, or your migraines are reoccurring more than three times in a week, it’s important to seek medical attention, as it could a sign for something more severe. For frequent migraine sufferers, there are a variety of medications that can be prescribed to be taken on a daily basis to reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks.
5. Change your lifestyle
A change of lifestyle may help prevent future migraines from striking. Identifying certain trigger foods that have led to a migraine previously and log them in a migraine diary to keep track of what you should and shouldn’t eat when a migraine takes hold. Chocolate, coffee and in particular red wine, have all been shown to cause and exaggerate migraines. Drinking less, catching up on sleep and avoiding MSG in your meals will all help prevent a migraine attack.
Dr Miles Boyden is Clinical Director at iDoc Doctor on Demand.
Can Ice Packs Treat Headaches?
Occasional headaches are something most people deal with. But if you have chronic headaches or migraines, you know how debilitating they can be.
Prescription medications and over-the-counter drugs can help, but it’s frustrating to take a pill every time your head hurts. The good news is there are several natural approaches you can try that help manage the pain and discomfort of a pounding headache.
One strategy that’s often recommended for headache and migraine pain is ice packs. Applying a cold compress or ice pack to your head or neck is believed to have a numbing effect, which may dull the sensation of pain.
Is ice an effective remedy for headaches or migraines?
Using ice as a remedy for headaches and migraines isn’t new. In fact, cold therapy for headaches goes back as many as 150 years. “Ice is often the ‘go-to’ to treat pain and inflammation, so it makes logical sense to be applied when your head hurts,” explains Dr. Tania Elliott, chief medical officer at EHE. But how does ice work on headaches or migraines?
Elliott says the cold can constrict blood vessels and help reduce the neurotransmission of pain to the brain. Instead of registering pain, it registers “oh, that’s cold.”
A 2013 study found that applying a frozen neck wrap at the onset of a migraine significantly reduced pain in participants with migraine headaches.
Researchers believed that the cooling pack cooled the blood flowing to the carotid artery in the neck. This helped to reduce the inflammation in the brain, which helped improve the pain felt by migraines.
What’s the best way to use an ice pack to treat a headache or a migraine?
Since ice packs are considered a home remedy, there are a variety of ways to use this treatment. As always, if you have questions or concerns about treating your headache at home, ask your doctor before trying any of these strategies.
Elliott says the best way to use cold therapy for a headache or a migraine is to apply the ice pack for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. Where you apply the ice pack also makes a difference in how quickly you can experience relief. The 2013 study specifically recommends applying the ice in the form of a neck wrap, which can help reduce the pain and discomfort from headaches and migraines.
Shop for neck wrap ice packs
Dr. Alex Tauberg, a certified sports chiropractor in Pittsburgh, recommends putting the ice either over the pain or at the base of your skull. Keep the ice on for 20 minutes and then take it off for an hour. You can alternate the ice on and off until the pain subsides. Tauberg says when you put the ice pack on you should experience four different feelings in this particular order:
Once you experience numbness, you should remove the ice. Keeping the ice pack on to long can damage your skin. If the burning is too intense, remove the ice. Some skin is more sensitive to cold.
Finding a home remedy to help you treat the symptoms of a headache or a migraine can mean the difference between experiencing manageable and severe pain. Using an ice pack is an inexpensive and relatively safe way to reduce the discomfort and pain from a headache.
If over-the-counter treatments and home remedies don’t provide you any relief from the symptoms of a headache or a migraine, it might be best to talk with your doctor about additional ways to treat the symptoms.
Do you need heat or cold for headache? The answer can be both!
Every headache sufferer is different, and the headaches themselves can be almost as diverse. The choice of whether to use a hot or cold compress for headache pain really comes down to the root cause of the headache and what it responds to.
When to Use Cold and Hot Compress for Headaches
No matter if you’ve been suffering headaches for years or they only recently started, the best thing you can do is start a headache journal. Such a journal can help you figure out when headaches start, what triggers them – and what you can do to get relief.
Headaches that Respond Best to Cold
In general, migraine sufferers who experience visual halo before and during their pain prefer a cold compress for headaches. Cold should be applied as soon as you start to notice the earliest signs of visual or sensory changes – at the same time you would take headache medication.
People who suffer from headaches caused by arthritis can also get relief using cold. Why? These headaches are caused by inflammation of the blood vessels of the head. Cold naturally brings most forms of inflammation down, while heat can actually worsen it.
Headaches that Respond Best to Heat
While cold is an ideal solution to many types of headaches, some of them can become longer or more intense if you apply cold. Since you could have headaches from several different sources, it’s best to make notes about your pain and what works in different situations.
Many stress headaches are caused by constriction of the blood vessels in the head. Cold causes blood vessels to constrict further, while heat causes them to dilate. Applying heat can stop blood vessels from becoming too constricted, shortening the duration of headaches.
Last, but certainly not least, applying heat can relieve headaches brought on by alcohol consumption and also drinking plenty of water or low-sugar sports drinks with electrolytes. Blood vessel constriction is a major part of these headaches.
Hot or Cold Compress for Migraine? Why Not a Permanent Solution?
Many people who suffer from frequent headaches feel temporary relief is their only option. With expert diagnosis and personalized treatment, however, it may be possible to achieve long-lasting freedom from headache pain.
the New Jersey Headache Institute for more information or
set your appointment
Hot and Cold Therapy for Migraine Relief
A migraine is a type of headache that can produce severe throbbing in an area of your head. Other symptoms you may experience include nausea, vomiting, and intense sensitivity to noise and light. A migraine attack can last for hours or days.
Heat therapy can reduce the pain of a migraine by relaxing your tense muscles. During the winter, a hot pack can help you melt into comfort.
Cold therapy works by numbing, meaning that it dulls the pain caused by a migraine. A cold pack has a cool analgesic effect that is perfect to use during the summer.
If you suffer from migraine headaches, hot and cold therapy can help relieve your symptoms. THERA°PEARL has a Facemask that can be frozen or microwaved. It has openings that allow you to see, breath and talk. Just wrap the VELCRO® BRAND straps around the back of your head and let the hot or cold therapy work its magic. THERA°PEARL also has an Eye-ssential Mask that can be chilled or heated. It’s an easy way to relieve your migraine pain and relax at the same time.
Applying Heat or Cold for Migraine Relief
Many migraineurs (people who suffer from migraine headaches) relieve the pain of a migraine with the judicious application of heat or cold. This type of pain abatement is particularly popular with people trying to minimize or avoid prescription medication use, especially among pediatric patients and their families.
Below are a few techniques that can help ease the pain of a migraine. Not all techniques work for all patients. While some migraineurs find comfort in cold, at least as many are more uncomfortable in the presence of cold. The same is true of heat used for pain relief-for some it helps, for others it makes the pain worse.
Apply a compress, hot or cold, to point on the head where pain is most severe. This is frequently on the temple where a large artery runs, or in front of the ear, another arterial locale.
For patients who feel their migraine pain “stabbing into the back of the eye” a damp cloth (warm or cool) laid over the eyes often provides relief. As a side benefit, covering the eyes in this manner also eases the discomfort of photosensitivity for many patients.
Taking a hot or cold shower with the water directed at the head and neck is another method to try, as is taking a warm (neither hot nor cold) bath. The latter is further enhanced with the use of appropriate aromatherapy techniques.
Some patients find relief in by alternating hot and cold cloths at the point where the migraine pain is most intense. Sometimes hot and cold used simultaneously can ease the pain. A migraineur may apply a cold compress on their forehead while at the same time soaking their feet in a container of warm water.
Rarely are patients simultaneously sensitive to both hot and cold, but it should be watched for.