Heat Therapy for the complimentary alternative therapy of migraine headaches: an introduction
Heat therapy, sometimes called thermotherapy, involves applying something warm to a body part to ease pain.
Heath therapy for migraines can use dry or moist heat. Moist heat warms the tissues of the body more quickly because water transfers heat faster than air.
Heat therapy is often used for:
- Inflammation or swelling
- Stiff muscles
- Injuries deep in the tissue of the skin
How does Heat help migraines
Throughout the body, including on the skin, there are nerve endings that send signals to the brain regarding pain. These nerve endings respond to changes in skin temperature. Heat also relaxes muscles, reduces inflammation and increases blood flow to the area. Heat also widens, or dilates, blood vessels.
Heat also reduces muscles spasms, stimulates blood circulation and changes the body’s reaction to pain.
The increased blood flow is believed to help with pain because it increases oxygen, proteins and other nutrients to the area in pain.
Sometimes heat therapy is used in conjunction with cold therapy, with sufferers applying something heated such as a warm or hot cloth over the head for a migraine.
Different products for Heat Therapy
- Heating pads or moist heat pad
- Heat lamps
- Warm baths
- Warm showers
- Heated, moist wash cloths 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 or discomfort to the skin if the product’s temperature is too high
- Burn can also occur with heating pads or other devices, even if they are on low if they remain in contact with a body part for an extended period of time
Who should not use Heat Therapy for migraines
Before starting any type of therapy, you should consult your doctor, particularly if you are pregnant or nursing.
Also check with your doctor if you have heart disease, diabetes, skin problems or any circulatory problems. People with these conditions should definitely avoid hot tubs, whirlpools, saunas and spas.
Stop the heat therapy immediately if you experience severe numbness in the area you’re applying the heat and see your doctor.
People with open wounds, decreased sensation in the skin and bleeding disorders should avoid heat therapy.
As always, the best source for advice on treating your migraines is your own migraine specialist. These descriptions of natural remedies are provided only for informational purposes. You should begin no treatment regimen, medication or supplement without first checking with your physician. Again, this information should in no way substitute or be mistaken for medical advice.