Heating Pads for Headaches and Migraines

Headaches and migraines are not only painful, they can be debilitating.

According to the World Health Organization, over half of the world’s adult population suffers from a headache at least once a year, with 4 per cent suffering from headaches fifteen or more days a month.

Headaches can greatly affect individuals' quality of life economically, socially, mentally, and emotionally.

However, there are ways to find relief from the sharp pains and throbbing brought on by headaches.

One of the best and most recommended treatments for headaches, especially tension caused headaches, is the application of heating pads.

By applying heat to the forehead or other part of the head, the heat helps to relax muscles allowing you to experience relief.

Man in white shirt screaming from headache pain

What Causes Headaches?

Headaches are completely neurological, meaning that the saying that the pain is all in your head is actually factually correct, as insensitive as it may sound.

Pain, in general, is the brain’s response to signals sent by the 7 trillion nerves that run through the body. 

When one of the nerves senses that a part of the body is in danger of injury, pain is sent to protect the body from further damage.

Since the head is the main neurological hub of the body, when the nerves in charge of connecting your senses to your brain act up the results can be crippling.

Headaches are usually divided into two general categories, primary headaches and secondary headaches.

Primary Headaches:

Primary headaches are headaches that are not the result of an underlying condition.

Instead, they occur when the pain sensors that connect to your head get out of whack or out of balance.

The Mayo Clinic reports that issues in the muscles of your neck and head (where major nervous systems are located), chemical activity going on in your brain, or the nerves and blood vessels surrounding your skull can cause an onset of a headache.

Sometimes it is a combination of these issues, but they all result in your body causing pain signals to reach your brain resulting in a headache.

Four Main Types of Primary Headaches

The Mayo Clinic breaks down primary headaches into four common types:

  • Migraines
  • Migraines with Auras
  • Cluster Headaches
  • Tension-type Headaches

What are Migraines

Migraines are generally characterized as being a headache that is usually a moderate to severe pulsating on one side of the head, which gets worse the more active you are.

It can last a few hours up to a few days and is sometimes associated with nausea.

The best part is that if you are a woman, congratulations you are twice as likely to suffer from a migraine headache disorder than a man.

Usually triggered by hormones, individuals who suffer from migraines can suffer from recurring headaches from puberty all the way up to their adult years.

Migraines with Auras

As with typical migraines, migraines with auras are intense headaches that are often accompanied with nausea.

However, individuals suffering from migraines with auras develop a sensitivity to light and experience distortions in vision including flashes of light, zigzags, blind spots, shining spots, and changes in vision.

Cluster Headaches

Have you ever experienced a headache behind or around your eyes?

Did they recur several times over a period of weeks?

Then you may have experienced a cluster headache.

Cluster headaches are also one sided, but can cause tearing, swelling, and redness to the eyes.

It can also leave the individual pale or flushing in the face, with a runny nose, and cause the eyelid on the affected side  of the face to droop.

Tension-Type Headaches

Tension-type headaches are headaches described as uncomfortable to moderate pain that feels like the individual’s head is encircled by a tight rubber band.

They are the most common type of headache which people suffer from.

These headaches can be sporadic or chronic and best treated with natural remedies and lifestyle adjustments.

The differences between tension-type headaches and migraines are that tension headaches do not include any visual distortions and are not made worse when undertaking physical activity and moving around.

Lifestyle Headaches

Certain activities can cause or aggravate headache disorders.

Headaches Associated with Lifestyles

  • Alcohol induced headaches
  • Exercise Headaches
  • Sex headaches
  • Cough headaches
  • Changes in or lack of sleep
  • Poor posture
  • Inadequate intake of food
  • Stress
  • Chronic daily headaches

If you suffer from headaches, take a moment to evaluate if your headaches can be caused by any of the above factors.

If you notice a correlation between a certain activity and your headaches, stop the activity and see if your headaches go away.

Secondary Headaches

Secondary headaches, unlike primary headaches, are a symptom of a different underlying medical condition.

Medical conditions can trigger the pain receptors that are part of the nerves in your head, causing headaches.

Conditions whose symptoms include headaches vary greatly in nature and severeness.

The Mayo Clinic lists some of the following as conditions known that can be attributed to headaches:

  • Acute Sinusitis (sinus infections)
  • Blood Clots in the Brain
  • Brain Aneurysm
  • Brain Tumor
  • Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
  • Concussion
  • COVID-19
  • Dehydration
  • Ear Infections
  • Glaucoma
  • Hangovers
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Influenza
  • Medications and Overuse of Pain Pills
  • Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
  • Panic Attacks and Disorders
  • Stroke

Brain freeze from eating ice cream and other cold objects is also considered a form of secondary headache.

Woman with icepack on head suffering from headache

What is the Best Way To Treat a Headache

There are several ways to treat headaches, but treatment options depend on what works well for an individual.

One person may be able to take Ibuprofen and be fine, while another has to take a Tylenol in order to find relief.

Although over-the-counter pain relievers are generally the ‘go-to’ option when it comes to headache relief, sometimes they aren’t enough.

In some circumstances, individuals may not respond to or be able to take traditional pain medication to stop headaches.

Fortunately, there are other more natural ways to find headache relief:

What Natural Remedies Can I Use For a Headache?

1. Using a Heating Pad For Headaches and Migraines

As we have discussed, the most common headaches are caused by tension related issues.

The best way to combat tension is to help muscles relax, and a great method to use is the application of heat.

Heat therapy is the term used to describe the usage of heat for healing purposes.

Heat relaxes muscles, allowing blood to flow more freely to areas that might be constricted, causing pain.

When coupled with deep pressure stimulation (pressure added to an area that results in helping relax the nervous system), it is a wonderful option to use when suffering from a headache.

How to Use Heating Pads for Headaches:

When using a heating pad to help combat headaches, make sure that your heating pad:

  • Maintains a comfortable heat for a long period of time
  • Is heavy enough to provide deep pressure stimulation
  • Comfortably Contours to the body
  • Is made from materials that do not burn or give off strange odors.

To heat a heating pad, follow the directions which come with the product.

If you have lost the directions or have made your own heating pad, place the heating pad in the microwave with a cup of water and heat it for 2-3 minutes.

If the heating pad is too hot to handle, place a cloth between the heating pad and the bare skin of the individual that will use it.

Once the heating pad is at a comfortable temperature, have the individual lay down and place the heating pad on the area that is in pain.

If it is hard to locate the epicenter of pain try placing the heating pad on the shoulders, neck, and base of the skull where most tension is concentrated.

Lie down and relax, reheating the heating pad as needed.

2. Take a Hot Shower or Hot Bath to Relieve Headache

Hot showers or baths are another great way to combat headaches.

Working under the same premise as heating pads, warm showers/baths are proven to help relax tired and tense muscles, triggering the nervous system to calm down.

Adding essential oils to a bath or shower can also help mitigate headaches.

3. Essential Oils That Help With Headaches

Essential oils are used by many people to naturally treat various illnesses and conditions.

Headaches are no exception.

Essential oils that are recommended for headaches are usually associated with headaches and sinus relief.

These essential oils include:

  • Peppermint Oil
  • Lavender Oil
  • Lemon Oil
  • Rosemary Oil
  • Chamomile
  • Eucalyptus
  • Frankincense
  • Ginger

There are several ways to incorporate essential oils in your headache regime:

  1. Apply directly on the forehead, soles of feet, behind the ears, and other absorption points. Make sure to use as directed.
  2. Diffuse essential oils into the air.
  3. Apply essential oils onto cotton balls and inhale the scent.
  4. Add essential oils to a bath
  5. Make vapor cubes and place in the shower so that the scent is released while showering.

4. Ice Packs to Help With Headaches

Both heating pads and ice packs have been touted as the best ways to help naturally combat headaches.

Depending on the headache, sometimes ice packs are preferred to heating pads for their ability to cool the forehead and ease the pain of throbbing's.

Coldness has the effect of constricting blood vessels, which can come in handy if you are experiencing the pulsating pounding of a severe migraine.

To use a ice pack:

  • Keep an ice pack in a freezer at all times so it can be used immediately at the onset of a headache.
  • Ice packs should not leak when used. Make sure the ice pack is thoroughly sealed.
  • Ice packs can be bags of ice, gel packs, frozen vegetables, and other cold items. However, Lavabags have been found to be the most ideal ice pack when it comes to headaches because of the pressure it offers, it’s ability to conform to the shape of the head, and the durability of its construction. 
  • If an ice pack is too cold to be on the skin directly, place a washcloth or other fabric barrier between the pack and the skin. 
  • Once the ice pack no longer provides cold, place it back in the freezer unless it is a bag of vegetables. Frozen vegetables may need to be discarded if thawed too much.

5. Find Ways to Relax

With many headaches, being able to relax is important to stop and even prevent headaches.

If you find that you are under a lot of stress:

  • Go for a walk outside
  • Meditate
  • Listen to soothing music
  • Practice breathing techniques
  • Get some rest

6. Avoid Headache Triggers

If you notice that headaches correlate to certain conditions or activities, find a way to avoid the triggers.

For example:

  • If you get headaches when exposed to fluorescent or bright lighting, consult an eye doctor on what type of glasses can be used to help block out headache inducing lighting.
  • If you experience headaches when you don’t eat enough, make sure to always carry around a snack to stave off headaches.
  • If you experience headaches because of lack of water consumption, carry a water bottle with you and make sure you get enough to drink.
  • If exercising induces headaches, consider taking an over-the-counter pain medication before beginning a workout session.
  • If you experience headaches because of allergies, make sure to take allergy medicine and over-the-counter pain medication when you feel that your allergies may be severe that day.
  • Avoid certain chemicals or scents that may induce a headache.
  • If anxiety and stress causes headaches, realize that you are under pressure and take small breaks to calm down and practice anti-anxiety exercises such as breathing to help keep anxiousness down. Sometimes, a weighted blanket can help calm nerves.

If you are aware or unaware of what triggers your headaches, make sure that you have the proper tools to combat headaches on hand such as heating pads, over-the-counter pain medication, water, essential oils, eye pillows, or whatever you have found that works to help mitigate your headaches.

Woman on couch with hand on head and stomach

Frequently Asked Questions For Headaches and Migraines:

Do you apply heat or ice on a headache?

Heat and ice can both be applied to a headache.

Which method you use is usually determined by the type of headache an individual is experiencing.

If experiencing a tension headache, a heat pad applied to the tense areas such as the back of the neck, shoulders, or forehead can help decrease the pain.

With headaches that are pulsating and throbbing by nature, such as migraines, ice packs can help desensitize the nerves and help the pounding to cease.

Icing a sinus related headache has also been found to be effective.

What’s the difference between a migraine and a headache?

A migraine is a type of headache that is pulsating in nature, occurring on one side of the head and can be very painful at times.

It can last from a few hours to several days and is often accompanied by nausea.

Why Do People Get Headaches?

The reasons why people get headaches varies, with many causes being unknown.

Generally speaking, individuals get headaches when the nerve pain receptors react to stimuli, either physical or chemical which causes them to send pain signals to the brain.

Some of these stimuli can be naturally occurring hormones in the brain and body, stimulated by the activities and nutrition of the body.

Other stimuli can be external triggers such as light, noise, and smells. 

Is There a Cure for Headaches?

There are several treatments for headaches, whether medicinal, natural, or ones that involve a change of lifestyle.

However, there isn’t necessarily an all around cure for headaches.

You may be able to take medicine for a medical condition in which headaches are merely a side effect, but you may still get headaches from something else.

Headaches are indicators that something isn’t quite right with your neurological system.

They are your body’s way of telling you that something is off, such as needing more sleep, eating better, etc.

By maintaining a healthy lifestyle and learning what your headaches are trying to tell you, you can make adjustments and reduce the amount of headaches you experience.

What Makes Headaches Worse?

Things that make headaches worse include:

  • Consuming foods lacking in nutrients
  • Not getting enough water
  • Not getting enough sleep
  • Being in high stress environments
  • Certain forms of lighting
  • Physical activity

Are Headaches Hereditary? 

Evidence supports that headaches, mainly migraines, do have the predisposition to be hereditary.

What Do I Do if I Get Headaches While Pregnant?

When pregnant, your body goes through various changes while nourishing the baby that is growing inside of you.

It is important to make sure that you get adequate nutrition and hydration during this time, since most of what nutrients you consume go directly to the baby.

It is generally advised that pregnant women do not take over-the-counter pain medications while pregnant.

Having a heating pad or ice pack handy during this time is recommended to help ease the discomfort caused by headaches.

Essential oils and other natural pain relief options are also recommended as long as they are used in accordance with your doctor’s approval and advice. 

Get a Heating Pad to Help With Headaches and Migraines

If you suffer from headaches, including migraines and other forms of headache disorders, it is highly recommended that you invest in a heating pad to give you comfort.

Lavabags are one of the best heating pads on the market, and with their versatility of being an ice pack, are a must have tool for headache relief.

Not only does the Lavabag retain heat longer, but it’s all natural hemp covering is comfortable when applied to various parts of the body.

The thick, heavy, yet conforming nature of the lava sand gives the needed pressure and weight that helps to reduce the pressure felt in the head.

Made of natural, but not perishable materials, Lavabags will be there to help you through even the toughest headaches.