Expert Answer: Sensation of heat during migraine attack

Question: Is it normal to feel “heat” at the location of my head pain during a migraine? I sometimes mistake it for a fever but when I check my temperature it is fine….

A sensation of heat at the site of the headache is quite common. Many people also feel a throbbing sensation, which suggests that opening of the blood vessels and increased blood flow to the area may be responsible for the warmth. Actually, many migraine sufferers find that applying cold to the head helps relieve pain. At the same time, some people feel that their body is cold and they even shiver. If that is the case, taking a hot bath and applying an ice pack to the head at the same time seems to work for many people.

The cause of feeling cold is constriction of blood vessels in the body, possibly triggered by low magnesium levels. Many migraine sufferers feel cold or at least have cold hands and feet all the time, even when not having a migraine attack. Taking magnesium daily can prevent migraine headaches and make people feel warmer by improving circulation.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (34)
  • Carolyn
    4 years ago

    For almost a year now, I have issues with temperature control, since I have 20+ migraines a month and daily head pain, I’m not sure how you correlate. Also, I had a hysterectomy at 24 (1990), losing everything except part of my left ovary, in 1991 I had Exploratory abdominal surgery only to find out my left ovary, smaller, had attached to the pelvic wall, and mass amount of adhesions throughout the region to include part of the bowels. In 1997 a Dr finally agreed to remove the left ( 1997), non functioning ovary, I went on HRT at that time, stayed on it primarily since then, except 1 attempt to remove myself in 2003, I stayed off for 1 miserable year, at that time my migraines were maybe 3-5 month, increased to 7-10, went to see specialist for treatment, decided to go back on HRT, no change in migraines until 2007 when they slowly and painfully were increasing in intensity and how many. By 2010 I was having 10-14 migraines a month, but experiencing cold, until 2014 when I no longer can tolerate heat of any kind, If I stress, over work ect…I get over blaringly hot, creating heat control issues, could not even walk to mailbox, very close without issues of temp going up, but never showing on a thermometer. I am no longer on a HRT due to other health issues, I am now having 20+ migraines, always get hot, feels like a hot flash, but always onset of migraine. Im sorry for so much info, but I am curious if anyone else out there or our expert thinks its all related. I am not and have not responded well to preventives or abortives. I have tried Botox 2 x, and had serious response of muscle weakness in my neck, to the point my head was always looking downwards, would have to be conscious or told to lift head, so I have avoided further treatment. I am at a loss, regarding the lack of heat control, and treatments that last such a short time, you cannot call them successful. Primary does not believe it is related to Hormones, So could this be related to Migraines? Desperate and confused.

  • The Migraine Girl moderator
    3 years ago

    Dear Carolyn,

    I didn’t write this original article–I just stumbled upon it when searching for the keyword “fever.” I don’t have answers for you, but I do want to let you know that I personally have learned that hormones have so much to do with every single facet of my health as a woman. You might want to check out a book called THE WOMAN’S GUIDE TO MANAGING MIGRAINE–it’s one of the best resources out there for female migraineurs of any age.

    I hope you get this message and that you’re feeling good today.

    Take care,
    Janet G., “The Migraine Girl”

  • Maureen Baxter Douglas
    8 years ago

    I am so glad that you wrote this article. My family laughs at me. I put 4 or 5 blankets on me in the middle of summer when I have a migraine because my body is freezing….and then I sleep I usually wake up boiling.

  • Carolyn
    4 years ago

    I went through being cold for several years, even in the summer, I live in Nevada, now its heat control issues daily. Hope it gets better for you.

  • Charlene Shipps
    8 years ago

    I recently had botox for my migraines and a new symptom when I get migraines now is my entire body gets overheated. It feels like I have a body fever over 100 degrees.

  • Leah K Watson
    8 years ago

    my neurologist told me ice pack on my head & hot water bottle at my feet…this has helped me on so many days! (i used a bag of frozen peas so if I fall asleep, no wet mess, & they can be reused.i mark that bag ‘migraine’ so I don’t cook them by mistake.i also use a 20oz coke bottle for my feet.i can roll my foot back & forth on it 2 warm my tired toes…also reusable. NOTE: leave 2″ of space cause the hot water causes pressure inside the bottle) hope this helps someone.

  • Molly Sweeny
    7 years ago

    i have a sock that i put rice in – i put in the microwave for a couple minutes – and drape it over my feet (whilst having the ice packs on my head). ahhhh. i’ll have to try the bag of peas!

  • Boo Walker
    8 years ago

    I tried to take it and unfortunately had the GI side effects (diarrhea) even at low doses so I was never able to give it the full 2 months to see if it would help with migraines. Here is some info. you’ll need to know before you start:
    Magnesium is available in many forms. Recommended types include magnesium citrate, magnesium gluconate, and magnesium lactate, all of which are more easily absorbed into the body than other forms. Time-release preparations may improve absorption. Ask your health care provider.

    Other familiar sources are magnesium hydroxide (often used as a laxative or antacid) and magnesium sulfate (generally used orally as a laxative or in multivitamins, or added to a bath). Some magnesium can be absorbed through the skin.

    Because of the potential for side effects and interactions with medications, dietary supplements should be taken only under the supervision of a knowledgeable health care provider.

    People with heart or kidney disease should not take magnesium supplements except under their doctor’s supervision.

    It is very rare to overdose on magnesium from food. However, people who ingest large amounts of milk of magnesia (as a laxative or antacid) or epsom salts (as a laxative or tonic) may overdose, especially if they have kidney problems. Too much magnesium can cause serious health problems, including nausea, vomiting, severely lowered blood pressure, slowed heart rate, deficiencies of other minerals, confusion, coma, and even death.

    More common side effects from magnesium include upset stomach and diarrhea.

    Magnesium competes with calcium for absorption and can cause a calcium deficiency if calcium levels are already low. Some medications may lower magnesium levels in the body. These include chemotherapy drugs, diuretics, digoxin (Lanoxin), hormonal supplementation, steroids, and certain antibiotics.
    http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/magnesium-000313.htm

  • Heather Ascencio
    8 years ago

    wow I am aways cold in the middle of summer in sweat shirts and my husbandmakes fun of me about it but now I am going to try this and see! Thankyou!

  • Jill McCoy
    8 years ago

    I am always cold…especially my hands…this is interesting. Always attributed it to the fact that I have been hypothyroid for years, then had half my thyroid removed. Already am on Topamax to keep my migraines under control, but maybe will have to add the magnesium as well…anything to warm myself up?

  • Christa Evans
    8 years ago

    I too am on Maxalt. I do not have to sleep it off and can function pretty normally. In fact, the doctor may be too cautious. If you need it take it! Do not wait any long it really does help!

    The heat is terrible and I have a migraine every single day. I am on a preventative which is not helping. The Magnesium idea is something I am def. going to try!

  • Alexander Mauskop
    8 years ago

    Sometimes magnesium taken by mouth does not get absorbed regardless of which type or how much is taken. If the suspicion of magnesium deficiency is strong (cold extremities, muscle cramps in legs and feet, PMS, etc.), I will usually give an intravenous injection of magnesium. If it is very effective, these infusions are usually given monthly.
    As far as the type of magnesium, it is true that different companies will have different inactive ingredients which can interfere with absorption. If there is no benefit and stool is normal, the dose of magnesium can be increased to 800 mg and higher.
    For people with IBS and colitis, IV infusion is the best, but they can try taking liquid forms of magnesium or a powder that is dissolved in water or juice (one brand is called “Calm”) – these are better tolerated. A slow release form of magnesium tablets, Slow Mag sometimes is better tolerated as well.
    With Maxalt and similar drugs (Imitrex, Zomig, Relpax, etc), most people do not need to lie down – they can take a pill and continue functioning normally.

  • Andrea Epstein
    8 years ago

    I read that adding a magnesium supplement in conjunction with other migraine medication could be dangerous. Is that true? Which ones should you not mix with a magnesium supplement?

  • Trenna Keating
    7 years ago

    One Dr. told me that before you start taking high doses of any vitamin/mineral to get your blood work done to see if in fact you are low in magnesium. And also to make sure you are getting a higher end brand as some (ex Jamison) have very little that your body will actually absorb….or something like that….basically buy the expensive stuff:)

  • Kerri Jackson Kelly
    8 years ago

    Thank you for the input and the suggestion for the magnesium. Any suggestion to lessen the attacks are more than welcome!

  • Janet Bollero
    8 years ago

    I GET THIS TOO! and you want to know something? I have a cavalier king charles spaniel that suffers from syringomegalia (spelling?) and she gets those hot spots (apparently where she is suffering the pain) I’ve started noticing that I get spots on my body that get red and inflamed and feel hot too.

  • Ravikiran Kisan
    8 years ago

    thanks for information, is there any study which tells that application of cold/hot water will reduces the migraine headache?

  • Dr. Alex Mauskop author
    8 years ago

    Sometimes magnesium taken by mouth does not get absorbed regardless of which type or how much is taken. If the suspicion of magnesium deficiency is strong (cold extremities, muscle cramps in legs and feet, PMS, etc.), I will usually give an intravenous injection of magnesium. If it is very effective, these are usually given monthly.
    As far as the type of magnesium, it is true that different companies will have different fillers, but diarrhea can be caused by magnesium itself, so magnesium oxide is OK to try. Chelated forms are also good – they are also called magnesium aspartate, gluconate, or glyconate. The usual starting dose is 400 mg a day with food, but for some, 1,000 mg is needed to provide effect and even this much may not cause diarrhea. On the other hand, some people cannot tolerate 200 mg because of diarrhea. It may take a month of taking magneisum daily before the benefit appears.
    About Maxalt – most people do not need to lie down at all and continue functioning normally. The same is true about Imitrex and other triptans, although obviously there are exceptions.

  • Pauline Lowman
    8 years ago

    There are different types of Mg. Mg Oxide is the most common and cheapest “filler”. It is also the one that causes the most irritation – thereby causing a bowel movement sooner than any other at a lower dosage. I was told to take 400 mg of Mg daily as well – that along with 400mg of B2 and 150 mg of Butterburr. (I am now taking 600mg of MG now daily as it works better for me) It takes about 90 days for it to start to show evidence in our body systems.

  • Tina Palmer
    7 years ago

    I took maxalt for a while and hope to go back on it soon. I found that it worked really well for me and didn’t make me drowsy or sleepy and I didn’t have to lay down. Just don’t drink alcohol within 24 hours of taking it because you end up super drunk after half a drink and can’t figure out why until you remember you took maxalt 14 hours ago.

  • Denise Hilker
    8 years ago

    I have been getting more migraines lately. My doctor gave me Maxalt, but I haven’t tried it yet as he said not to take it unless I am able to lay down for a couple of hours. I work two jobs. I rarely get two hours of sleep in a row during the week.

  • Tonia Iversen Bealer
    8 years ago

    interesting……does the cold constrict vessels better than caffeine?

  • Heather Opperman
    8 years ago

    I heard the same thing about magnesium but haven’t tried it because I’m always a little worried about adding in vitamins and supplements that I’m not fully educated on. Hmmm, I may have to try it!

  • Courtney Gates
    8 years ago

    My Neurologist has me taking 400mg./day. I’ve been taking it for several months now and unfortunately it has not helped my migraines. I wish you guys like with it and hopefully it will help you!

  • Karen Spann Lee
    8 years ago

    It never helped me either. And I took the high quality mag citrate tabs.

  • Courtney Gates
    8 years ago

    That is LUCK with it, lol!

  • Georgia Phelps Robertson
    8 years ago

    How much magnesium should we take?

  • Valorie K McLain
    8 years ago

    Same here. For people with colitis, is there an optimal way to take magnesium? I can tell you that ALA HELPs to SOME degree with the leaky gut.

  • Laura VanNatta Gaffney
    8 years ago

    This is the number one reason I don’t take magnesium. I have IBS and any amount seems to be too much. I wonder if there’s anything you can do dietarily to increase your body’s own production of mag. Any thoughts?

  • Bonnie Parent
    8 years ago

    interesting… I was told by a nutrionist that you start increasing your magnesium until you notice bowel changes. Since it is in laxative, you can judge when your body has enough.

  • Karen Mullins
    8 years ago

    Thanks!

  • Veronica Herzing
    8 years ago

    I never knew that……I am one of those whohas cold feet and hands all the time, even in summer! Wow, I will try the suggestion of taking magnesium, thank you!

  • Kriss Royer
    8 years ago

    Veronica, have you had your thyroid checked? I used to have cold feet and hands all the time and a lot of headaches. found out it was my thyroid… just somethign to have checked.

  • lizzie
    8 years ago

    Unfortunately, magnesium gives me diarrhea.
    Is it strange that I use a heating pad for migraines? It works for me. Does anyone else?

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