How cold therapy works: In cold therapy, a person, who has a migraine, places a cold pack, usually wrapped in a towel or cloth, on their head or neck. Cold can help relieve pain and that is part of the reason it helps with migraines headaches. Cold therapy also helps reduce inflammation, which can help reduce migraine pain (read more about why migraines happen).
Evidence in children: This is a therapy that has been used historically for many years and has some scientific evidence in adults. In adults, it appears that cold therapy can help reduce pain from migraines in some people and when used, people are less likely to need or use other types of pain relief, such as medication. 1,2 Cold therapy has not been specifically looked at in children but it is reasonable to believe that it would be helpful for children with migraines.
Cautions: There are limited cautions in using cold therapy but certain groups of people may be more at risk when using cold therapy. Some groups are individuals with cold sensitivity, or if a person has nerve damage or skin issues. People with long-standing diabetes (such as older teens) may also be at risk. For these groups particularly but also for anyone, cold therapy has the possibility of causing frostbite or damage to the skin from the cold.
1. Sprouse-Blum, A. S., Gabriel, A. K., Brown, J. P. & Yee, M. H. Randomized controlled trial: targeted neck cooling in the treatment of the migraine patient. Hawaii J. Med. Public Health J. Asia Pac. Med. Public Health 72, 237–241 (2013).
2. Ucler, S., Coskun, O., Inan, L. E. & Kanatli, Y. Cold Therapy in Migraine Patients: Open-label, Non-controlled, Pilot Study. Evid. Based Complement. Alternat. Med. 3, 489–493 (2006).