Heat Therapy for Migraine Headaches
Getting relief from a migraine can sometimes be a tricky proposition. It all depends on the individual, but more often than not, simple home heat therapy is extremely helpful in treating this common problem. Although heat may act as a trigger in some people who suffer from migraine attacks, for many others, it helps relax them - which is why this therapy tool is so popular. The earlier medical intervention is sought, the better off you will be because most experts agree that if left alone for too long, migraines can develop into hypnic headaches, which most people would prefer to avoid altogether! For anyone thinking about adding heat to their treatment plan, I highly recommend purchasing either a heating pad or hot shower at a minimum.
Heat therapy involves a lot of trial and error, but there is one thing that most people can agree on: warmth can be soothing during an attack. If you’re not sure whether you’re a candidate for heat therapy or not, specialists recommend working with a small amount of it at home and seeing how your body reacts.
Heat therapy has not been scientifically proven to relieve migraine attacks, but it does seem to help those with tension headaches. Some migraine sufferers don't even have the benefit of knowing what a gentle head massage could do for their throbbing necks and shoulders or lower back. They often get a combination of headaches that includes tension and possibly migraine attacks. Heat therapy can be extremely useful in easing aching muscles and knots in one's neck or back that is brought on from stress, tension, or overuse.
About 97% of people with migraine can develop a kind of tension headache in addition to their pain, and as such, heat therapy is generally accepted as effective for this purpose. It is believed that muscle spasms trigger migraines; the theory behind heat therapy is that it relaxes the muscles and thus relieves any pain a patient may be feeling.
Types of Heat Therapy
Heat therapy might tickle your fancy. It could be that you want to take a sauna or you could like the idea of taking a hot bath. Some doctors recommend using herbal heating pads as part of their treatment plans. The point is heat therapy will help you. According to some experts, moist heat warms the tissues in your body more quickly because water transfers heat faster than air.
Heat therapy is most commonly used for conditions like:
- Arthritis or achy joints
- Stiff muscles
How Does Heat Help Pain?
Heat stimulates nerves that operate below the surface of your skin and deliver signals to your brain. The benefit of using this type of therapy is that it blocks pain signals from the injured area, but how exactly does it do that? Heat therapy increases blood flow to an affected area by up to 30%, which is believed to be one of the main ways to reduce pain. Increased blood flow not only supports healing by increasing oxygen and protein supplies; it also relaxes muscle tissue, which makes a patient feel better overall.
Sometimes it's nice to utilize a hot and cold compress simultaneously. And with that said, switching on and off between heating or cooling different parts of your body as part of your treatment is completely normal. It's also worth keeping in mind that sometimes people have specific preferences for one or the other; for some, it's far more relaxing to start with heat and then move on to something colder!
Different Products for Heat Therapy
- Microwavable Heating pads or moist heat pad
- Heat lamps
- Warm baths
- Warm showers
- Heated, moist washcloths or towels
- Hot water bottle
- Heated pool
- Hot packs
- Heat wrap
- Warm bath or shower
- Warm whirlpool or hot tub
- Parrafin baths
Possible Side Effects of Heat Therapy
- Burn can occur with heating pads or other devices that give off the heat if they remain in contact for an extended period.
- Burn or discomfort to the skin if the product’s temperature is too high
It's important to realize that heat is always a double-edged sword when it comes to talking about heat therapy. While plain old ice packs are usually applied with ease, plenty of people don't like using them simply because they tend to cause frostbite in sensitive areas around the body. When applying heat therapy, it's very important to know that its effects can be positive and negative: It will certainly soothe whatever pain you are feeling by promoting blood flow in your veins, but constant exposure can prove harmful if you aren't careful as well. It's tough choosing between heat or cold because most alternatives on the market have their corresponding disadvantages.
No matter which type of alternative you prefer, though, one thing is certain: The best way to stay safe while using these aids to get rid of painful symptoms is by seeing things from an objective perspective first and foremost - not by letting yourself be persuaded!
Who Shouldn't Use Heat Therapy for Migraine?
Before starting it, you should discuss it with your doctor in any therapy. If you are pregnant or nursing, you have heart disease, diabetes, skin problems, or any circulatory conditions. Avoid hot tubs and spas.
Stop applying heat right away if you experience numbness in the area you're treating, and discuss the issue with your doctor. People with open wounds, reduced sensitivity in their skin, or clotting problems are at higher risk of experiencing side effects.
Migraines are no laughing matter! More than 11 percent of the U.S. population suffers from this debilitating condition. Many of them are women (indeed, about 14.3 percent of women report suffering from migraines in contrast to 8 percent of men). While the true causes of these headaches aren't yet known, there is good news about treatment: Many people who suffer from migraines can find relief through herbal remedies and lifestyle changes. Those who decide a more conventional approach is necessary may discover that medication offers a long-term solution since research suggests that people who have uncovered their triggers tend to experience fewer attacks (or none at all) over time when properly treated.
As always, when it comes to finding the best way to relieve migraine pain and treat your attacks, you should always consult with your doctor. These descriptions of specific medications and natural remedies are meant only to provide information - we make no promises or guarantees about the efficacy for any particular one of them.