All you need to know about why cold compress is a great way to soothe migraines

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All you need to know about why cold compress is a great way to soothe migraines

If you regularly suffer from migraines, we feel your pain. However, if it’s any consolation, know that you are not alone in this fight. Migraines are considered the third most common disease in the world, affecting one out of every seven people in the world.  It is estimated that about 148 million people in the world suffer from chronic migraines.


According to the American Migraine Foundation, one in four households in America has a member with a migraine.

While there is still no direct cure for migraines, the good news is that there are plenty of ways to help with pain relief or symptoms of migraine. Many of these methods are also drug- and chemical-free ways to help relieve the symptoms of migraine. 

Examples of natural pain remedies for migraines:


Acupressure is an alternative medicine technique, a type of acupuncture that originated in ancient China. It involves pressure application to specific areas in the body. This method of stimulating targeting points in the body is believed to release tension and pain in the body. For migraines and headaches, specifically, the pressure point is the space between the base of the left thumb and pointer finger. It is believed that when firm but not painful circular pressure is applied on this point for five minutes, headache pain may be relieved.

Change in diet

Through decades of research, it is believed that certain types of food can trigger migraines. These trigger foods include processed foods, red wine (alcohol in general), chocolate and caffeinated beverages. 

Try to keep a food journal to track what may trigger your migraines, as this differs between people. 

Staying hydrated

Being dehydrated, or not drinking enough water, is known to be a migraine and headache trigger. Try to consciously drink more water each day to avoid dehydration. In severe cases, some may need an oral rehydration solution to replace electrolytes. Keeping a water jug with markers of when you should be drinking normally helps.

Cold compress 

Cold compress, or cold therapy, is not exactly a new method as a remedy for migraines and headaches. This method goes back as far as 150 years. Applying a frozen neck wrap at the onset of a migraine has been found to reduce pain.

How does cold compress soothe migraine pains and symptoms?

In a 2013 randomised control trial held to test the effectiveness of cold therapy as a self-care treatment for migraines, it was found that applying a frozen neck wrap at the onset of a migraine drastically reduced pain in participants, all of whom were regular migraine-sufferers. 

Researchers believe that the cold compress cools the blood that flows to the carotid artery in the neck. This helps reduce inflammation in the brain, which in turn reduces the pain felt in migraines. The cold can constrict blood vessels, helping reduce the neurotransmission of pain to the brain. When it normally registers pain in the brain, it now registers a message similar to “ok, this is cold”.

What’s the best method to use an ice pack for migraines?

The first thing to know is where you apply the ice pack makes a difference in how fast relief is experienced. In the 2013 study mentioned earlier, it is recommended that using the ice pack in the form of a neck wrap — placing it in the nape area (base of the skull) — can help reduce pain and discomfort from migraines. 

Applying the ice pack directly to the area of pain can also help. It is also recommended to apply the ice pack for just 15–20 minutes at a time. After that, you can rest ice-free for an hour, then apply the ice pack again. You can repeat this pattern of 15–20 minutes of ice, then an hour off, until the pain subsides. 

You should be able to experience four different sensations while applying ice pack to your nape or area of pain:

1 – Cold

2 – Burning

3 – Aching

4 – Numbness 

It is suggested to remove the ice when you get to stage 4 — numbness. However, some people’s skin is more sensitive than others, so if the burning sensation you feel is too intense, you can remove the ice. Keeping the ice on for too long can damage the skin via frostbite.

What’s the best type of cold compress for a migraine?

There are two ways you can go about employing cold therapy on your headache or migraine. 

First, you can make your own ice pack at home. This is the simplest and most basic method of making your own ice pack. 

Here is what you will need to make a homemade ice pack:

  • 2 large resealable zipper bags (8 x 8 inches will do)
  • 1 cup (250 ml) of water
  • 1 cup (250 ml) of rubbing alcohol 
  • Optional: blue food colouring


  1. In one bag, combine both the water and rubbing alcohol.
  2. Add a drop of food colouring. This is not necessary, but it gives others the heads up that this is a gel pack!
  3. Seal the bag. Make sure there’s little to no air inside.
  4. Place this bag inside the second bag. This is to prevent leakage.
  5. Freeze the bag. 

This method works if you do not have a gel or an ice pack at home. It’s also convenient because most of the materials are already found in your home. 

The downside to a DIY ice pack method is that this is not recommended for multiple uses. Water and alcohol may leak out of the bag, which will make it slippery and inconvenient to use over time.

The different types of ice or gel packs made specifically for migraines

The second type of cold compress, and we think is the best type to relieve migraine symptoms, are gel packs specifically made for migraines. 

Migraines hit different areas for different people, so there isn’t just one type of ice or gel pack that works for migraines. For instance, you can use a facial ice pack, which covers the entire face comfortably, as some types of migraines hit the forehead and sinus area as well. 

Then there’s also an ice cervical pillow for neck pain relief and back support, which can help greatly with one’s sleeping position and in getting a good night’s sleep overall, which we know will lessen migraine symptoms. 

There’s also a luxury ice eye mask that is made out of reusable hot and cold gel packs. Some types of migraines hit the forehead and eye area with searing pain, and an ice eye mask will be helpful in this instance. 

The gel eye mask can also be applied as a neck ice pack, which will help relieve migraine pain as well. 

Then there’s the headache and migraine relief cap, a gel pack which can be worn over your forehead or pulled down to cover the entire face. This is perfect for creating that cool, calming and quiet environment which will really alleviate migraine pains.  

The advantage of any of these types of ice pack is that they are handy, safe, reusable and very easy to use. All you need to do is pop them in the freezer, and they are ready to use. They are already flexible straight from the freezer, so no need to wait for these ice packs to “soften”. They are all made to comfortably fit and contour to different parts of the body, whether it’s the nape, forehead, eye or facial area. 

They can also hold cold temperatures for up to 15 or 20 minutes continuously, so you know you are getting effective migraine relief. 

Migraines can be debilitating, especially as there isn’t a “magic healing pill” for this. However, it can be easily and effectively managed with natural pain remedies and cold compresses, so you can live pain-free and comfortably, even when migraines strike.

Have you been suffering from migraines for long? What kinds of home remedies have you tried? Let us know and we’ll be happy to discuss!

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