Hydrotherapy for Migraines (& other headaches!)

A migraine is defined as "a recurrent throbbing headache that typically affects one side of the head and is often accompanied by nausea and disturbed vision." They typically last anywhere from 4-24 hours, can be felt on one or both sides of the head, and often will be associated with a trigger. 

The best method for controlling migraines is to determine what the root cause of it is. Migraines have been shown to be associated with aspartame (diet soda's!),  food allergies (cows milk is #1), high sodium intake, hypoglycemia, tension/stress, alcohol, changes in weather, lack of sleep, and the list goes on! Since the list is so vague, it is difficult to narrow down the specific cause, or causes! So while you are working with your doctor to prevent future migraines, here is a great way to manage the migraine as it is occurring.

Hydrotherapy was brought to the US by Vincent Priessnitz and was studied by Father Kneipp. Kneipp wrote My Water Cure in 1882 which explained the principles of hydrotherapy and how it is used as a cure for many aliments. Hydrotherapy uses the properties of water, alternating from hot to cold, to stimulate the body's vital force to heal. Hydrotherapy stimulates the immune system, improves the circulation of blood and lymph, and inevitably, promotes healing. 


"They have all helped me, the doctors, the apothecaries and Priessnitz. The former helped me get rid of my money, the latter my disease."


How to use Hydrotherapy for Migraine's

Supplies needed: 

  • 1 bowl filled with ice water
  • 1 bowl/bucket with hot water
  • 1 small or medium towel 


  • Place the towel into the ice water bucket, wring out, and place on your head or the back of your neck. 
  • Place your feet into the warm water bucket.
  • Sit comfortable for 15-20 minutes, relax, and focus on deep breathing. 

**Water does not have to be boiling. Hot water should be to skin tolerance and should NOT cause burning of the skin. The same goes with the ice water, the water should too cold for your skin tolerance.***

If you do not have the space or are unable to use buckets, you can substitute the ice water for an ice pack and a heated blanket for the feet. Although using water is recommended. 


Why does Hydrotherapy work?

Migraines cause the blood vessels in your head to get bigger. Just as more water can flow through a hose versus a straw, more blood is being circulated to your head. This can contribute to the throbbing sensation felt. 

Cold water causes your blood vessels to shrink and move deeper into your skin. This is your body's innate response to help keep your body warm. Therefore, the cold towel applied to the neck/head area will work to make the blood vessels smaller. 

Hot water on your feet will do the exact opposite of the cold water on your head/neck. Hot water causes your blood vessels to become bigger, and therefore, more blood circulates down to your feet. 

In conclusion, the cold water pushes the blood away from your head and the warm water signals for it to come down to your feet. This helps relieve a migraine and/or headache.