Some headache sufferers swear by a brisk walk in the cold air to clear their heads. For others, this would be a trigger to bring on a humdinger that would fell an elephant. Some leap into a hot shower at the first sign of a headache. For others, this would be just the thing to bring one on.
Both hot and cold treatments can be hugely effective with bringing relief from headaches. Some people prefer hot, some cold and some like to alternate. This is such an individual thing. You have to cautiously experiment and find out what works for you.
Why do hot and cold work so well?
It’s all to do with the muscles and the blood vessels. Many headache pains are caused by enlarged blood vessels pressing on surrounding nerves. Applying something cold to the area can help to constrict those vessels, reducing their diameter and lessening the pounding headache.
Some headaches are caused by tension and anxiety. This tightens up the muscles which then pinch nerves and enlarge blood vessels. Applying cold or heat to them (or alternating between the two) can loosen them up, releasing the pinched nerves and calming down the blood vessels.
Another great way to use get rid of a headache is to sit and soak your feet and ankles in a bowl or bucket of hot water. This works because the heat dilates, or enlarges the blood vessels in your feet and legs and helps to draw the blood away from the head. This releases pressure and calms the headache.
You may find this even more effective if you apply cold to your forehead and temples at the same time. This is because it will stop the heat from the foot-bath heating up your head as well – which is what we’re trying to avoid. When you’re finished, put on some thick, fluffy socks, to keep your feet warm and keep the blood flow diverting away from your head.
If you don’t own a cold pack – or you are trying out the different variations before investing in one, be careful how you apply cold.
A bag of frozen peas is ideal as it has a soothing weight to it and it molds to your face, neck or head. Be sure to wrap it in a cloth or thin towel to avoid getting ‘freezer burn’ on your skin. If you’re making your own pack from ice cubes, put them in a strong plastic bag and then wrap in a towel as before.
In either case, don’t leave the cold pack on for more than half an hour. You can always apply it again after a short rest.
Cool your brain with ice cream!
You know that piercing headache that you get when you eat an ice cream? Some people call it ‘brain freeze’. It’s not very comfortable but only lasts for a short time and is a great way to cool your brain down. It can stop a bad headache and can prevent a migraine developing further by cooling down the hypothalamus of your brain. This area is thought to be involved with the creation of migraines.
Got your ice cream ready? Put a spoonful of ice cream right into the back of your mouth. Keep it there with your tongue until it melts. If it becomes uncomfortable you’ll have to swallow it and try again.
What is the best hot or cold pack to buy?
If you’ve decided to go for a hot, or cold pack, or both so that you can alternate, there are many to choose from. They range from simple stick-on cold forehead patches, to squashy rectangular packs and fully fitted masks. Take some time to decide which will be best for you.
I’m too busy to stop and apply a pack. What can I do?
This is a common problem for full-time workers and moms at home with small children. But remember, this is a damage limitation exercise. If that headache or migraine gets a grip, you will be out of action, no matter how busy you are. There are cold packs available in the form of a band that you wear around your forehead and temples. They fasten with velcro, so you can put it on. . . and carry on.
My neck and shoulders are so tight and giving me a headache
Try a moist heat neck wrap. It may help to relieve that tension.
My headache is from dental problems or TMJ
Try a cold wrap that sits under your chin and fastens over the top of your head.
My whole head is throbbing and hot. Help!
Invest in a cooling ice pillow. These are also great for menopausal women or those on tamoxifen, who suffer from hot flashes and night sweats.
More vital headache relief information can be found at http://Headache.HealthHows.com , a resource rich site on headaches and their causes.