Migraine Treatment a Washout

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March 18, 2015

A box of ice and water could be the latest migraine treatment. If this is all it takes, then what are we waiting for? When it comes to drug free migraine therapies, people will go to great lengths to try many unconventional concepts. However, when the recommended therapy comes from a health expert, we all pay closer attention to what is involved. A recent article on Family Practice News, reported this medical story.

An emergency department physician presented the findings from a small study at the annual Society for Academic Emergency Medicine meeting. The study involved 18 people who sought treatment in the emergency room for tension headache or acute migraine. They were on average, 29 years old, and presented with headaches that were severe enough for the attending physicians to prescribe opioids, anti-emetics (anti nausea medication), or triptans. However instead of actually receiving these medications, they received an odd drug free migraine therapy.

The headache and migraine treatment involved a hair-salon-like basin filled with lukewarm water and a block of submerged ice at the bottom. The patients placed their heads into the box. As the ice melted, the water gradually cooled, until it became cold. After 30 minutes the patients reported a decrease in pain, and half the group described their headaches as mild. After 60 minutes, some patients reported a smaller incremental improvement in symptoms, and one additional patient said their headache was mild.   Medication was nevertheless prescribed for seven of the subjects.

Many migraine and headache sufferers report that cold packs can be an effective drug free migraine therapy. However, the doctor noted that the sudden application of cold water or ice packs could also stimulate a pain reaction. This is why he believes that gradually chilling the water is a preferable migraine treatment. The doctor was concerned however, that at the 72-hour post-treatment follow-up approximately six patients reported rebound headaches. He indicated that future studies would be needed to determine whether a specific water temperature could be achieved that would optimize the beneficial effects of this water box treatment. He also noted that due to recent concerns about the dangers involved with opioid abuse, physicians might be more inclined to consider administering drug free migraine and headache therapies when possible.


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