Settling for what type of compress to use in relieving your headache can get tricky and confusing most times. Occasionally, people deal with headaches and migraines. Despite how effective over-the-counter drugs and prescribed medicines are, it can be daunting to take pills each time you encounter a headache. Nevertheless, there are natural alternatives to help relieve you of the discomfort experienced with a splitting headache. This brings us to the subject of hot and cold compress. There are several effects that are derived from the use of either remedy.

To begin with, heat relaxes the joints, muscles, and blood vessels, while cold alleviates inflammation. You can apply a cold compress after sustaining a fresh injury – a sprain or a bruise. The swollen area can be reduced with the application of ice packs or ice. The resulting effect is that the blood vessels in such areas constrict. It is strongly advised that you use cold compress within 48 hours of an injury. If the pain is chronic, there would be a need to have more circulation of blood in the affected part; by doing so, your pain can heal faster due to the presence of oxygen in the blood and the nutrients that it contains.

Cold Compress – Ice Packs/Ice

Treating headaches and migraines with a cold compress isn’t a new practice. As a matter of fact, it dates way back as far as 150 years ago. Cold therapy treatment is effective for pain and inflammation. Hence, when your head pounds, the best option is to apply ice packs. Cold compress constricts blood vessels and decreases the neurotransmission of pain to the affected area. For individuals with migraine headaches, using a frozen neck wrap substantially reduces pain. It cools blood flow to the carotid artery in the end.

When you place the ice pack on the affected area, here are the following reactions you should get:

  • Cold
  • Burning
  • Aching
  • Numbness

As soon as you experience numbness on your skin, take off the cold compress, as it can have a damaging effect on your skin if left for too long. Also, should you experience intense burning, remove the ice pack. Some skins are more sensitive than others.

When you place an ice pack on your head, keep it for about 20 minutes and remove it for an hour. Continue this alternate procedure until the pain subsides.

Hot Compress

Tension headaches occur when the muscles in the head region are tightened. The application of a warm compress relaxes the affected muscles and relieves the headache. A warm compress may include a heated towel or a tepid shower. Another option is to heat yourself up and cool down. You can place your feet in hot water; it helps relieve your headache as well. The hot water draws more blood to your feet; this eases the blood pressure in the brain.


When using hot or cold for a headache, there are some tips you must observe:

  • Avoid exposing the affected area to extreme temperatures.
  • Don’t place your skin directly to the source of cold or heat. Instead, apply a hot towel or ice pack to your head.
  • The cold or hot compress shouldn’t be applied for more than 20 minutes.
  • Look out blisters, numbness, redness, and burns.
  • Don’t apply to broken or irritated skin.
  • If you have circulatory problems, then it’s best that you stay away from cold therapy.

Generally, individuals that suffer from migraine headaches favour ice packs, whereas those with muscular contraction and tension headaches may prefer hot packs or showers.

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