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.