The therapeutic effects of the application of ice bag on head have been the subject of extensive research.  Known in medical science as non-invasive head cooling, cold therapy as an effective remedy for treating headaches and migraines has been practiced for generations, offering swift relief. However, apparently many individuals do not seem to receive desired results from ice packs, and this is attributed mainly to the incorrect application of the ice bag. Here is a good look at the science of cold therapy and points that need to be remembered while applying ice bag on head.

What happens when you apply ice bag on head?

Ice or cold therapy treats pain and inflammation and this, in turn, helps to treat headaches and migraines. The mechanism of action behind the therapeutic effects of ice bag on head is the constriction of blood vessels and the simultaneous inhibition of neurotransmission of pain. This gives cold therapy and ice the desired outcomes of pain management and anti-inflammatory effects.


The blood vessels from the neck to the brain facilitate the supply of blood to the brain, and this happens at a relatively high temperature – 98.6 F. The brain is encased in thick bone and this heat is not released quickly. While this is normal and would not affect routines, it becomes difficult when there is an injury or trauma. The buildup of heat then becomes a contributor to pain, inflammation, and discomfort. The application of ice bag on head helps to bring down the heat considerably and quickly and this alleviates the problem significantly through the dual action of constriction and prevention of pain neurotransmission.

Under what circumstances can you apply ice bag on head?

Broadly speaking, there are four different circumstances when you can apply ice bag on headheadaches/migraine, fever, pain in the eye, and minor injuries. These are all situations when a cold compress can be sued to alleviate the condition. However, it is important to note that the situation will warrant different types of cold compresses. For instance, for eye pain, it will be intolerable to use an ice pack – you will have to use a cool cloth for the desired effects. Similarly, for cooling the head, a cold cloth will be ineffective. You will, therefore, have to use an ice pack sufficiently long enough for the effects to be experienced.


How long should one apply ice bag on head?

This is one of the reasons that determine the results of the application of ice bag on head. Intermittent application of the ice pack may be necessary for desired results. If you suffer from excruciating pain in the head or neck, you will have to apply it for a period of fifteen or twenty minutes followed by a gap of forty-five minutes and application of the cold compress again for twenty minutes. The sequence of actions that will be experienced with an ice pack includes – a cold feeling, a burning sensation, localized ache at the site of application, a numb feeling. If you have applied the ice pack of the right temperature and with the right kind of pressure, then you will feel the above in sequence. When the area becomes numb, it is an indication that it is time to remove the ice pack.

Depending on the severity of the condition, you can either stop the application of ice bag on head or you can repeat the procedure after a gap of forty-five minutes.

How much of pressure should be used while applying a cold compress

Most individuals wrongly assume that an ice pack needs to be held down tightly against the area. The application of pressure depends on the desired outcome. If you intend to control swelling, then you can use a certain amount of pressure to press down on the site. However, this should never be excessive and should not cause pain or discomfort to the patient. 

If the purpose of applying ice bag on head is to reduce fever or to control pain, then the application should not involve pressure. The idea is to bring down the temperature and pain – no amount of pressure will bring it down. The effects will only be experienced through the constriction and cooling effect. Therefore, gently place it in the area.

Where to place the ice bag when you have a headache and migraines?

When you suffer from headaches and migraines, the best place to put the ice bag on head would be to place it at the base of the skull. alternatively, you can also specifically place it on the area where you experience the pain. The base of the skull is considered an effective option, because the cooling effect and constriction will help to deliver results faster. As the head is covered with thick bone, the ability of the ice pack to offer adequate cooling effect will demand application for a longer period of time. However, if you keep it on sufficiently long enough, you will find better results.


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