Have you ever wondered why athletes use ice baths after training? Or why millions of people regularly take cold showers “for health reasons?” Or why you should ice (and never heat) an injury within the first 48 hours?
The answer to those questions is the reason behind Icekap. Because cold therapy helps your body break the pain cycle… and promotes a lot of other health benefits. Cold therapy has been used for centuries to soothe pain, including that caused by headaches and migraines.
Headaches — and their severe variant, migraines — are characterized by a throbbing pain often caused by the dilation of blood vessels in the head. This expansion triggers a chain reaction in our nervous system, sending out pain signals that are interpreted by our brains as a headache.
And our nervous system responds to cold in ways that might surprise you.
How Does Cold Therapy Work?
The science is complex, but here’s the simple version. It has to do with blood vessels and nerves.
When you apply cold therapy to blood vessels:
- Dilated blood vessels often cause migraine pain.
- Blood vessels constrict when they’re cold.
- Inflammation and swelling are soothed when blood vessels constrict.
When you apply cold therapy to nerves:
- Nerves conduct pain signals throughout the body.
- When they’re cold, nerves don’t conduct signals as well.
- The brain receives fewer, less-frequent pain signals.
Cold therapy also influences the threshold levels of various thermo-receptors and nociceptors (pain receptors), further numbing the pain sensation.
Cold Therapy and Headaches
When you apply cold therapy to a headache, you can specifically target the inflamed and dilated blood vessels that are causing your headache. Cold treatment can cause these vessels to constrict, reducing the pressure they exert on surrounding nerves, and consequently, soothing the pain.
Research has further supported the beneficial effects of cold therapy for headaches. A 2022 meta-analysis, published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing, concluded that “cold intervention is an effective regimen to reduce migraine pain instantly.”① And a 2013 trial, published in the Hawai’i Journal of Medicine and Public Health, found that cooling applied to arteries in the neck “significantly reduced recorded pain in participants with migraine headaches.”②
Icekap and Cold Therapy Solutions
The second study noted that maximum pain relief was achieved after 30 minutes of continuous cold — which is one of the reasons that we supply medical-grade ice gel packs with Icekap products. Lower-grade packs often warm up in 10-20 minutes, whereas a medical-grade pack can stay cool for hours.
There are certainly other ways to unlock the benefits of cold therapy — you can give yourself an ice bath, or see if any spas in your area offer a cryotherapy chamber, where the air is supercooled to extremely cold temperatures — far below -100°c — to trigger the body’s fight or flight response. Both have their advantages, but both can be a stress on your mind, body, and wallet. So a cooling cap like the Icekap Cool Cap is an excellent way to get the benefits of cryotherapy without all the hassle.
Safety and Precautions
While cold therapy is generally safe, it's essential to take precautions to prevent frostbite or cold injuries. You shouldn’t directly apply ice to your skin — instead, ensure there’s a layer of fabric or that you’re using a specialized ice pack (or cap!) You should also start with a short period of time — say, 10 minutes — and see how your body responds before going for a longer session.
It's also crucial to listen to your body. Some individuals might find heat more comforting and effective than cold, and that's okay. Pain management is highly personal, and what works best for you is what matters most.