cold therapy for migraine

Cold therapy for migraine

Have you ever been in a situation when you had to leave a room because you felt a sudden piercing pain in your head and couldn’t take another second standing in noise and clustered space or steamy air? Headaches can be thought of as pirates that hijack your brain. Headaches are never welcomed, yet it affects a significant chunk of the global population today.

According to the report by WHO, about 50% of adults globally suffer from headache disorders. Half to three-quarters of people aged 18 to 65 years have had a headache in recent years, in which 30% or more are cases of Migraine. Headache on 15 or more days per month affects 1.7-4% of the adult population worldwide.

cold therapy for migraine

Specifying the causes of headaches isn’t easy, as they can be triggered by long screen time. Categorising headaches can also cause headaches, as over 150 kinds of headaches. But there are some prevalent kinds of head pain. Tension headaches or stress headaches are dull discomfort, tightness, or pressure around the brow, back of the head, and neck. In Cluster Headache, you may have extreme searing or piercing pain behind or around one of your eyes. It may be throbbing or continuous.

The agony can be so intense that most people suffering from cluster headaches cannot sit still. But one of the most prominent kinds of pain is Migraine pain. A migraine headache is a form of severe pain. It may aggravate nausea, vomiting, or sensitivity to light and sound. A throbbing pain is usually felt just on one side of the head.

What are the causes of Migraine?

Migraine Pain can be caused by a variety of factors that are unique to each individual. Certain foods or scents, missed meals, changes in weather or barometric pressure, sleeping too much or too little, physical effort, and low blood sugar can all trigger migraines in certain people. Hence pinpointing just one of the causes can be very difficult.

  • Hormonal changes: this is usually a women-centric trigger. Migraine can happen to women during their menstrual cycle or menopause. The contraceptive pill can also affect you.

  • Emotional Changes: this is usually triggered by anxiety, stress, tension, shock, or depression. And the distress caused by caffeine withdrawal.

  • Irregular meals, poor posture, disturbed sleep cycle, low blood sugar, physical fatigue, extended screen time, exposure to bright light, strong smells, and a polluted environment could be some more reasons for Migraine.

What are the symptoms of Migraine?

Other than an intense headache, nausea and weakness are the most common symptoms that you may experience depending on person to person. The symptoms may also differ in migraine with aura and migraine without aura.

“Aura” refers to visual symptoms such as lines, forms, or flashes. You could potentially lose some eyesight for 10 to 30 minutes. You may also experience tingling in your arms and legs. Auras may also impact smell, taste, touch, and voice.

Categorising the symptoms depending on the stages of migraine could be easier to understand. Not everyone experiences all the stages, i.e., prodrome, aura, attack, and post-drome. 

Prodrome marks the onset of migraine. Following is the list of symptoms that one may feel.

  • Feeling depressed

  • Speaking and reading are difficult.

  • difficulty in concentrating

  •  Problems in sleeping 

  • Nausea.

  • Fatigue.

  • sensitive light and sound 

  • Urination increases

  • Muscle tenderness

 Aura affects roughly 1 in every four migraine patients. It frequently begins before the headache and can continue for up to an hour.

  • Temporary blindness.

  • Visual symptoms: You may see some weird figures with hazy patches, sparkles, or lines.

  • Tingling and numbness

  • One-sided weakness of the body.

  • Difficulty in speaking 

cold therapy for migraine

Migraine attacks can last up to 4 to 72 hours. The frequency and duration for which migraines occur differ from person to person. Migraines might occur seldom or multiple times each month. You may notice the following.

  • Throbbing or pulsing pain 

  • one-sided pain in the head but can occur on both sides.

  • Sensitivity to light, sound, and smell increases 

  • Vomiting and nausea

Post-drome is also known as a migraine hangover. It lasts from a few hours to a few days after a migraine.

  • Depressed mood.

  • Fatigue.

  • Fatigue. Lack of concentration.

  • Inability to comprehend.

  • Increased urination

Treatment of Migraine includes taking over-the-counter medicines and making many lifestyle changes to strengthen yourself. Usually, people start by reducing their screen time and exposure to artificial lights. Get a good 7-8 hours of sleep to recover from fatigue and stress. Do not overeat or skip meals. And lose weight if they are overweight.

Overuse of medicines is never good and may lead to Medication-overuse headaches. This is more prevalent in women than men, but no one should suffer from this. Hence, Medicos suggest non-drug methods and ways to curb the discomfort, like yoga for migraine, acupuncture, and the use of cold therapy. Yoga is a widely known solution but let me shed some light on cold treatment for migraine.

Cold therapy (cryotherapy) uses cold things to provide relaxation and ease some pain. Putting an ice pack would be the first thing your mom would suggest you do if you ever complain about migraine pain to her. 

What is it in cryotherapy that stops pain?

In response to cold, your blood vessels constrict, affecting circulation to pain-related nerves. Cold treatment reduces local inflammation (swelling), typically the basis of the problem, by slowing nerve transmission of pain messages. Essentially, this treatment replaces pain perceptions with icy and cold sensations. Also, according to a report in NCBI, the use of cold therapy in Migraine decreases the VSA score. 

Applying ice packs and chilling your head to relieve headache discomfort is a tried-and-true technique with solid proof. It has been demonstrated in studies to help treat migraines.

cold therapy for migraine

In 2015 a study done by the Journal of headache and Pain on 20 Migraine patients, cryotherapy relieved pain in eight, with an additional ten experiencing partial relief. 87% of individuals evaluated saw significant improvements in symptom severity 24 hours following treatment.

Another NCBI study highlighted how targeted neck cooling could also ease migraine pain. They discovered that cooling during the start of headaches dramatically lowered pain intensity after 30 minutes, making this a realistic and effective treatment option.

Heat V/S Cold for Migraine?

Heat therapy and cold therapy are efficient in general pain relief, but they may not be the same for headaches. Both serve the purpose in different ways and shouldn’t be used interchangeably. 

Heat therapy promotes blood circulation and oxygen flow to a specific body area due to the high temperature. Even slight temperature increases can alleviate discomfort and pain, improve muscle flexibility, and mend wounded tissues.

Whereas cold therapy does the opposite by limiting blood supply to a specific location, which can significantly reduce pain-causing inflammation and swelling.

Several studies have proven ice and cold therapy to be the best solution for classic and common migraines. Many studies show that ice packs and cold therapy ease them within 25 to 30 minutes of application. Heat therapy may not be helpful for migraine but can be great for tension headaches. 

Cold therapy for Migraine.

Cryotherapy can be done at home with everyday household items, but numerous reusable cold packs are also available in stores.

Frozen towel: Soak a towel in cold water for a few minutes, then dry it out until it’s moist. Place the damp towel in a plastic bag in your freezer for approximately 15 minutes. Before using the towel, be sure you remove it from the pack.

Use Cool gel pack: The 2nd most affected body part in migraine other than our head is our eye. Cold packs are a standard treatment method for headache and migraine discomfort. A cold compress or cold gel pack applied to your head or neck is said to have a numbing effect, which may lessen the sense of pain. An excellent gel eye pack can help compress the eye and ease headaches.

Ice Bag:  If you can’t get a cooling gel pack, you can create one at home. Fill a plastic bag halfway with ice and add a little water before closing. Before usage, wrap the pack with a moist cloth.

Applying ice packs on the temples and neck to control and relieve headaches is effective. Cold treatment has been demonstrated to help treat many headaches, including migraines.

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Written By

Kanak Tiwari

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