When you are suffering from a headache or a migraine you will do just about anything to try to ease them. The most common thing that people will reach for after a pain killer will be an ice pack or a heat bag. So which is more effective to help relieve a headache/migraine?
Interestingly the answer is….neither.
The most common cause of headaches and migraines are dysfunctions in the upper 3 joints of the neck. Due to the chronic nature of these conditions, ice and/or heat will not help to alleviate these joints. However, one of the biggest things that is important during a headache/migraine attack is comfort! Therefore if you feel as though ice or heat is comforting or soothing, it certainly will not make the pain worse and by making yourself feel more at ease, this will in fact help your headache/migraine pass quicker.
The most important thing when applying an ice pack or heat bag is to never place them on the front of your neck. You have a lot of important structures in through the front of the neck that should not be affected by either ice or heat. Also, due to the top 3 joints because the cause of most headaches/migraines, if you place an ice pack or heat bag on the back of your neck, often it will cause your head to poke forwards, further encouraging these headache/migraine inducing dysfunctions. Therefore when applying ice/heat, apply it to the lower neck/shoulder area for maximum benefit and comfort.
So if ice and heat won’t positively influence your headaches/migraines, what will? Movement of your neck is the number one thing! If you are in the middle of an acute attack, make sure you are regularly moving your neck by either looking up and down, side to side, or by gently and slowly performing circles in both directions. Encouraging movement regularly will help loosen your neck and alleviate the pain quicker. However prevention is always better than a cure so performing these exercises on a regular basis is recommended.
Do you have any other questions about headaches and migraines? Subscribe to the blogs and videos of Dr. Beth (osteopath) from Melbourne Headache Solution and get those queries answered.