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Hot or Cold Treatment for Headaches: Itís Your Choice

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A large number of those who suffer recurrent headaches confirm that all they need to clear their head and experience relief from the pain is a brisk walk in the cold air. Yet there are those people who report that doing so only aggravates their headache problem. On the other hand, there is another group of headache sufferers who prefer to take a hot shower the minute they feel a headache coming in order to prevent its onset. Then again, some people complain that the hot shower worsens their condition.

The truth is, heat and cold may be used to provide relief to headaches. Packs or showers have the same effect. Itís a matter of personal preference. Some find hot treatments effective while others swear by cold treatments. Interestingly, there are individuals who favor alternating hot and cold treatments to alleviate their headaches.

If you don't have your personal choice of treatment as yet, you may have to experiment to find which one works best for you.

Hot or Cold -- Both are Effective

Headaches occur when muscles or blood vessels in the head and neck swell, tighten or undergo changes that stimulate or put pressure on the surrounding nerves. These nerves in turn send a rush of pain messages to the brain, so you get to experience the headache. Either hot or cold treatment is effective as they are directed onto the blood vessels and muscles. Applying cold treatment on the affected part constricts the blood vessels, thereby reducing pressure being applied on the nerves and relieving the pain.

The so-called tension headaches  are triggered by physical and emotional stressors. When a person is anxious and tense, the muscles contract, pinching the nerves and causing the blood vessels to enlarge. You can relax the muscles by using alternate heat and cold application which releases the nerves and eases the blood vessels.

Soaking the Feet

Another popular treatment for head ache is by soaking the feet and ankles in a container of hot water. This dilates the blood vessels in the feet and legs and draws blood away from the head. As a result, the nerves on the head are relieved of the pressure and the headache gradually goes away.  Applying  cold compress on the forehead while the feet are immersed in hot water will hasten the pain relief. The cold compress works by preventing the heat from rising to the head, which could add to the headache. After the foot bath, the individual is advised to wear thick socks in order to keep the feet warm.

How to Apply the Cold Treatment

In the absence of a cold pack, a bag of frozen peas can be used as a substitute. This, however, must be wrapped with a cloth or thin towel to avoid freezer burn. Ice cubes placed in a plastic bag can also be used. In this case, the skin must also be protected by wrapping the bag with a thin towel. The cold treatment can be applied on the skin for a maximum period of thirty minutes only. Let the skin rest before reapplying if needed.

Brain Freeze

"Brain freeze" or its scientific name, Spheno Palatine Gangleoneuralgia, is a type of headache experienced by some people immediately after consuming cold beverages or food, particularly after rapid ingestion. According to studies, brain freeze is common among people who suffer from migraine.  As a preventive measure if you still want to enjoy your ice cream, put a dollop of ice cream at the back of your mouth and let it melt first before swallowing. This method gradually cools down the hypothalamus, which controls the body temperature and is believed to be responsible for the onset of migraines. Effectively, you are preparing your brain for the consumption of cold food and prevent a headache or migraine from developing.

Hot Packs and Cold Packs

They may be pricey, but it is to your advantage to purchase a hot pack and cold pack. Use these packs alternately as an effective therapy for headaches and migraines. Choose from a variety of hot packs and cold packs. They come as stick-on forehead patches, rectangular packs and fully fitted masks.

If your activities prevent you from lying down for your hot and cold treatments, opt for a cold pack, which you can wear similar to a band around your forehead and temples. You can fasten the cold pack on your head as these packs are fitted with Velcro.

Use a damp heat neck wrap for tension relief if you observe your headaches are accompanied by stiff neck and stiff shoulders. On the other hand, use a cold wrap if the headache is triggered by a dental problem or TMJ (Temporomandibular Joints, which attach the lower jaw to the skull). For this type of headache, choose a cold pack that you can fasten atop your head while the cold pack is positioned under your chin. Menopausal women who suffer from hot flashes and night sweats,  and women who are under tamoxifen medication can benefit from a cooling ice pillow.

Copyright 2007 www.healthcare-advice.com


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