Does Ice Water Help With Migraine Headaches?

Background Information 

Migraine headaches can be absolutely debilitating and incapacitating. Only someone who has had a migraine can truly understand how painful it is. Migraines are intense headaches that can last up to 2 or 3 days. In addition to the throbbing pain, migraine headaches often come with extreme sensitivity to light and sound. Other symptoms include pain on one side of the head, nausea, and vomiting. In some cases, there are precursors that let the individual know that a migraine headache is about to happen. This is called an aura. Auras can range from things such as having a tingling feeling in your arm or leg, numbness, or blind spots in your eye.


As someone who suffers from migraine headaches, I can tell you that they are absolutely no joke and not to be taken lightly. Because of my migraine headaches, I am forced to carry a bottle of Excedrin with me nearly everywhere I go to help protect against these headaches. However, sometimes these can take a while to work and may not work effectively all the time. I have always been looking for other treatments for migraines. A few weeks ago after class, I was heading home and listening to the radio when the radio host mentioned that sinking your hands and feet into ice water can help combat the symptoms of migraines. Could this really be true? Can something as simple as ice water help with disabling migraine headaches?




In this case, the null hypothesis would be that submerging your hands and feet into ice water would do nothing. Meaning that ice water does not help combat the symptoms of migraine headaches. The alternative hypothesis is that the ice water treatment does help alleviate the symptoms of migraines. Scientists can choose to either accept or reject the null hypothesis.



A 2013 study conducted by doctors Adam S. Sprouse-Blum and Melvin HC Yee of The University of Hawaii at Manoa studied the effects of cold treatment on migraine headaches. The study that was performed was a randomized controlled trial where participants eligible for the study were assigned to one of two groups, the treatment group and the control group. The treatment in this case was a neck wrap with frozen packs that covered the carotid artery in the neck. This was an experimental study because the x variable was manipulated. Participants were forced to meet a number of eligibility requirements including being in a specified age range(18-65), being examined by a professional for migraines, and could not be taking medication for migraine headaches. Out of 101 participants, 55 of them were deemed eligible for this study. The 55 eligible participants were asked to report how severe their pain was on a scale of 0-5 (0 does not hurt, 5 hurts the most) at four different intervals during an hour period. The four intervals where data was recorded was: onset, fifteen minutes, 30 minutes, and one hour. The treatment was applied during the first 30 minutes of the study and then participants were asked to take the neck brace off for the remaining 30 minutes.






During the onset of the migraine headache, when treatment had not been yet applied, the average pain scores between the treatment group and the control group was fairly similar with an average score of 2.83 in the treatment group and 2.61 in the control group. However, participants in the treatment group showed a major improvement in pain while the cooling pack was applied to their neck with an average pain score of 1.84 in 30 minutes compared to 2.83 when the headache began. In the control group, the pain actually got worse after 30 minutes with an average pain score of 3.1 compared to 2.61. According to the results of this study, the ice treatment helps with migraine symptoms. The doctors believe a possible mechanism for this is that the cooling pack cooled the blood flowing to the carotid artery in the neck to the point where inflammation in the brain was reduced significantly which helped improve the pain felt by migraines.


Although the sample size was quite small, only 55 people, I believe that the study was properly conducted and the results were clear. The p-value was less than one percent which means that we can say that the results were not due to chance alone. According to the data, scientists should reject the null hypothesis that ice treatment does not help with migraines. It would be nice if more studies reached the same conclusion.



Works Cited


“Headaches and Migraines Center: Treatments, Causes, Types (Cluster, Tension, Chronic, Sinus, and More ).” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.

Sprouse-Blum, Adam S., Alexandra K. Gabriel, Jon P. Brown, and Melvin HC Yee. “Randomized Controlled Trial: Targeted Neck Cooling in the Treatment of the Migraine Patient.” Hawai’i Journal of Medicine & Public Health. University Clinical, Education & Research Associate (UCERA), July 2013. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.

Taylor, Danette. “Migraine Headache Symptoms, Relief, Types & Medications.” MedicineNet. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.


3 thoughts on “Does Ice Water Help With Migraine Headaches?

  1. Alexander Roker

    Even though this study sample was small, I agree with your notion that this experiment was done well and the results point to a clear correlation. Even though the means by one rates their pain may vary from person to person, a correlation can still be found by comparing their first response with their subsequent responses. Nonetheless I do think that one potential downfall in this study is the ambiguity and difficulty in judging how much pain someone is in.

  2. Abigail Edwards

    This was a great blog post becuase I too have suffered from migraines! They are literally the worst! Next time I will definitely give this a try. Another thing that works really well is holding an Ice pack to your temple, this helps a lot too! Thats what I did last week when I wasn’t feeling well and it was great, I was actually able to fall asleep! Here is a link to further explain that


  3. Mackenzie French

    Since my last blog post was on headaches also, I was interested to read your blog and see what you had to say and what research you found. I had never heard of this ice water treatment being a cure for headaches but next time I will try it! My blog was more on why we get headaches and what causes them,etc. instead of a certain trial like yours, check it out! And I agree, it would be nice if more studies reached the same conclusion. 🙂

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