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Cryotherapy:  Ice Relief for Migraine Headaches
An Optical Migraine FAQ
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Well-Known Migraine Triggers
The Migraine-Aspartame Connection
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Sexually-Triggered Migraines
Eye Problems & Migraines
Fragrance Migraine Triggers
Treating Menstrual Migraines
Migraine Treatment:  A Natural Approach

Cryotherapy:  Ice Relief for Migraine Headaches

Ready to put your migraines on ice?  Thousands of people in the United States experience migraine headaches regularly only to find that the standard medications provide them little relief. One idea that's gaining in popularity, though, is the use of ice "cryotherapy," to put it in technical terms. But does it work? The answer is yes, sometimes, and no, not always. 

A study conducted by Dr. Lawrence D. Robbins with the Department of Neurology at the University of Illinois at Chicago examined the migraines of 45 people, all of whom were given a cold head wrap to help with the pain.  Dr. Robbins found:

  • 35.5 percent of the patients reported that the ice did nothing for their headaches. 
  • 29 percent said the ice remedy helped a little. 
  • 26.5 percent reported that the ice treatment was "fairly effective" in relieving the pain. 
  • Just nine percent said the cold treatment was completely effective in getting rid of the migraine pain. 

So you could look at this as "the glass half-full" or "the glass half-empty. "  On the one hand, only a tiny minority report that the cold head wrap gave them total relief.  However, nearly 60 percent reported some relief by using it. Or as Dr. Robbins noted, “You have a 50-50 chance of getting some pain relief within three minutes of applying a soft, cold ice pack wrapped in a towel to your head. ”

Let's examine just how the ice works in order to understand why it provides some relief.  In a migraine episode, the head's blood vessels open more widely. They could become swollen with blood, which will cause pressure on the nerves around them. These nerves then send out pain signals, causing the migraine.  When you surround your head with the cold wrap, this cools the blood vessels, causing them to constrict and go back to normal size. This reduces the pressure on the nerves and the pain. 

There are a few different ice products you can use to try to provide migraine relief.  One is called "Migraine Ice," headache pads which require no refrigeration.You just take the pad from a pouch, take off its protective film and then apply it to the back of your neck. Another product is Soft Ice. This one can be purchased as either  a head wrap or neck wrap. Of course a traditional ice pack is also a possibility, and many have found that these do the job as well as one of the new-fangled products. 

Maybe you're not at home when a migraine attacks, and as a result, you don't have access to one of the store-bought ice solutions. In that case, you can make your own. It's as simple as getting a towel and some crushed ice, then placing the ice on the towel, and folding the towel to hold the ice.  

Regardless of which ice remedy you use, you'll get better results if you go into a dark room and lie down as you apply it. The low lighting and relaxed atmosphere will help relieve some of the tension that otherwise just exacerbates the problem. 

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