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Will Soaking Your Feet in Hot Water Relieve a Migraine?

Will Soaking Your Feet in Hot Water Relieve a Migraine?

You’ve probably seen that photo on social media. It depicts a woman sitting on a counter with her feet soaking in the sink basin and an ice pack on the back of her head. The photo claims that soaking your feet in hot water while using an ice pack on your head will relieve the pain of a migraine attack.

Every time I see that image, I cringe. The comments alone drive me crazy. Too many people take the image literally and make comments about their inability to perch on the edge of the sink. I want to scream, “That’s not the freaking point!” but truthfully, no one is listening.

I’ve lost count of the number of images, memes, articles, and helpful tips I’ve been sent by well-meaning loved ones. They really do want to help me, so I try to be gracious. I try to educate them, too. Most of the time my words fall on deaf ears, but once in a while, someone will actually pay attention. It is because of these rare moments that I still make an effort. So, back to the topic at hand.

Can this trick really help?

I had a chiropractor suggest something similar many years ago. Frankly, it was the only helpful thing he offered. His version included wrapping my feet in a heating pad while lying down with an ice pack on my head. I can’t explain why it helped, but it did. The attack was not aborted, but the pain did ease up. Since that first attempt, I have always included this strategy as a comfort measure.

When to use a comfort measure

There are two times when I make use of comfort measures. First, I will use these strategies at the first sign of trouble. Most often, I will grab a wearable ice pack moments before I take one of my triptans to abort the attack. The cold eases my symptoms while I wait for the medicine to do its job. Second, on the rare occasion that acute treatment fails to abort the attack, I will use comfort measures to help me cope with symptoms until the attack subsides. The longer the attack, the more strategies I will use.

Some other comfort measures

  • Ice packs
  • Heating pads
  • Counter pressure
  • Aromatherapy
  • Ginger or peppermint tea
  • Pain relieving ointments
  • TENS units
  • Sleep masks
  • Ear plugs
  • Anti-nausea medications
  • Muscle relaxers
  • Tinted glasses

Putting it all into perspective

A comfort measure will not abort the neurological processes we call a migraine attack. Sometimes we get lucky and a comfort measure will actually eliminate a symptom (like pain or nausea). That alone can make us feel much better. It’s worth building a toolkit full of such options and keeping it close at all times. It’s good to start by thinking about all the times you’ve had a migraine attack. What did you crave? What was readily available and what was hard to find? If wrapping your feet in a heating pad or soaking them in hot water helps, then make sure to include that heating pad in your toolkit. Just don’t expect it to get rid of the attack entirely.

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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

  • Susan L
    3 years ago

    I have a roll-on with a 15% menthol content – not a cream or lotion, exactly, not a liquid, either. Cryoderm. I would be lost without it. It works like any other menthol/peppermint, and similar products, to mask transfer the sense of pain. But this is a high percentage of menthol, and it is my constant go-to pain reliever, regardless of whatever else I’m “allowed” on that day, (rescue meds, etc.). I have one roll-on bottle on my bed, and another on the TV tray next to my ThermoSpecs. It gets me through every attack, and I have Chronic Daily Migraine; 28 days a month.

  • Jani8
    3 years ago

    Hi Tammy, When I learned Bio-feedback, the trick was to make your hands and feet get really hot and your head cold, It takes the blood from your head. Well, not all the blood. I think this is basically the same only you don’t have to think it. I’m going to try it with a heating pad. I already have several cold packs. I hope this works! Jan

  • menopausalmigraineur
    3 years ago

    Hi Tammy, As usual I found your post informative and helpful. LOL I’d add yoga wraps to that (a wide ace bandage wrapped around the head to apply pressure to the muscles that tense in sympathy), Epsom salt soaks in a bath ( I like spearmint and menthol, lowers BP and helps muscle aches), meditation, biofeedback to lower BP and calm stress.
    But in my opinion most of the medications we take are comfort measures since most of them treat symptoms and are for acute migraine attacks, not for the underlying cause, the central nervous system disorder. Unfortunately we have no really good way to address that yet.

  • Kate
    3 years ago

    I haven’t tried soaking my feet in hot water…the closest I’ve done is a heat pack on the neck and an ice pack on the head (nice, but a pain to set up). Also, I do love myself a hot shower when my head is screaming through; however, the relief stops as soon as I exit the shower. My favorite comfort measure for migraine is my Soothe Away device. It is a technological step up from ice packs, as it circulates cold (or hot) water to keep a constant temperature through pads, including a type which fits the head/forehead perfectly like a helmet.

    It is corded so I’m stuck on the couch/bed with it, but its hands free. It is also a bit of a pain to set up (as I put it away in a cupboard), but you can keep the tiny bit of distilled water in it between uses. Unfortunately it makes a fair bit of noise too. One of the best things is it stays a constant temperature *adjustable), vs. ice packs which always seem too cold or too melted. My insurance actually covered some of it (billed under medical equipment, which often folks don’t have good coverage for; I think they pay 60%, vs. 90-100% for other stuff).

    Having multiple abortive options puts my mind at ease. Typically using a combination of things (such Triptan, anti nausea, NSAID, muscle relaxer, and opioid) works best for me. Best wishes.

  • tiggmom1
    3 years ago

    Hmm…I have a TENS unit that I use for my back and shoulder pain. I never thought to use it for a migraine. Where are you putting it–on your neck, temples or where? And which mode do you use–the burst or the steady massage? Fantastic idea! I will put this in my toolkit ASAP!

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