Can a Hot Tub Really Help With Headaches?
In this series of blogs, I’ve been thinking about online reviews and in person testimonials from Hydropool owners, especially where they have expressed a specific medical issue or lifestyle challenge that their hot tub or swim spa has made a difference and I’ve tried to understand the science behind what they tell us.
Elsewhere in the series, I cover back pain, diet, stress and other issues where the difference that immersion in warm, bubbling water can deliver feels obvious. This one, however, feels counter intuitive – but as headaches is something you’ve told us a hot tub can help with, let’s deep dive (pardon the pun).
As always, we advise seeking medical advice for any discomfort or pain. What I have tried to do in this blog is to take feedback from Hydropool customers and back up this anecdotal evidence with scientific and medical studies. Your spa can complement medical treatments and advice – talk to your doctor first!
Headaches can be both extremely painful and disruptive. The throbbing pain can sometimes be so distracting that its all you can think about, preventing you from either relaxing or going about your daily tasks. Google returns 6,480,000,000 results for “remedies for headaches”, and the supermarket and chemist shelves are full of pain killers that target headaches, but many people don’t realise that there are different types of headaches, all of which require slightly different treatments to quickly relieve the pain.
Interestingly, several Hydropool customers have told us their expertly designed hot tub, thanks to its versatility and range of programmes, helps them deal with a variety of different headaches. So, which headaches can the warm waters of your Hydropool help soothe?
A tension headache is considered the most common type of headache (American Migraine Foundation, 2021). It is highly likely that you will have experienced one at some stage in your life.
A tension headache is one that causes ‘mild to moderate pain’ and is commonly associated with the feeling of pressure in the upper neck, behind the eyes as well as feeling as though there’s a tight band around the head (MayoClinic, 2021 & NHS, 2018).
Tension headaches can be triggered by a wide variety of everyday occurrences, such as stress, noise, bright lights or long durations spent staring at a computer, TV or phone screen (NHS, 2018). The tight band we feel around our heads when suffering from a tension headache is caused by the muscles becoming overly tense in our neck and head (HealthLine, 2020).
Thankfully, due to the relaxing and calm environment your Hydropool hot tub can create for you, a short dip in one of our heated pools could help. As you submerge yourself in the warm water, your muscles will begin to completely relax all around the body (Mooventhan & Nivethitha, 2014). As a result of this, the tension in the muscles within your head eases, causing the tight band you feel to loosen before eventually disappearing. Additionally, as your body’s muscles begin to relax, stress and anxiety levels will also begin to decrease (An et al, 2019). As stress is seen as a common cause of tension headaches, this should also help you prevent a recurrence of the pains once you’ve stepped out of your spa.
Some users have told us that their hot tub is their ‘go to’ for help with a migraine. Here, especially, I’d repeat the advice that medical advice is key and should be sought before embarking on any course of treatment. Certainly, it would be irresponsible to recommend any hydrotherapy for treatment of some vascular migraines, where increased circulation is not advised. It depends on the trigger – talk to your doctor.
Migraines are defined as an intense throbbing or pulsing pain in the head that lasts for at-least 5 hours (NIH, 2020). Whilst less common than tension headaches, migraines still affect approximately 190,000 people in the UK every day (NICE, 2011). Unlike the other types of headaches, little is known on exactly what causes them. However, it is thought that changes in sleep patterns, becoming overly stressed and certain foods can play a part in increasing an individual’s risk of suffering from a migraine (NHS, 2019).
Fortunately, despite the lack of understanding on what exactly causes migraines, research has shown that taking a dip in warm water appears to be an effective method of soothing the pain caused by some migraines and even helping prevent them in future (MayoClinic, 2021). Based on this research, a hot tub can provide both an effective and relaxing way to relieve pain, but please talk with your doctor.
As you submerge yourself into the tub, the warm water will immediately begin to relax the muscles around your body, easing tension and pressure. As a result of muscular relaxation, your stress and anxiety levels should also begin to decrease (An et al, 2019), further easing muscular tension as well as potentially combating the primary cause of your migraine (Mooventhan & Nivethitha, 2014).
Your Hydropool hot tub can also help you get a better night sleep, in turn helping reduce the risk of suffering from future migraines if that is triggering yours. Research conducted by Haghayegh et al (2019) found that bathing in warm water 1-2 hours before bedtime enables you to fall asleep faster. This is because a gradual decrease in core body temperature induces the feeling of sleepiness, by bathing in warm water your core body temperature rises, then gradually falls again, once you step out (Haghayegh et al, 2019).
So, based on this evidence, relaxing in a pool of heated Hydropool water as a part of your nightly routine can maintain a consistent and healthy sleep schedule, and potentially reduce your risk of suffering from migraines – but again, check with your doctor first.
According to MayoClinic (2021), sinus headaches are a type of headache that ‘may feel like an infection in the sinuses’ and cause you to feel pressure in your eyes, cheeks and forehead.
When your sinuses become infected, they can become inflamed which in turn creates a build up of pressure, leading you to experience headaches (Healthline, 2020). As well as headaches, sinus infections can cause facial pain, loss of smell as well as a cough and feeling congested (MayoClinic, 2021). A combination of these factors can cause you to feel extremely uncomfortable, as well as potentially affect your sleep and your ability to perform day to day tasks (Brennan & Charles, 2009 & MayoClinic, 2021).
Fortunately, your hot tub can once again provide a relaxing solution to this issue. Bathing in the warm waters can help soothe your headaches as well as clearing your sinuses. Your muscles will begin to completely relax, which will lead to a decrease in the amount of muscular tension and pressure you experience (Freiwald et al, 2021). As tension and pressure begins to decrease, your headaches may begin to dissipate.
Additionally, bathing in warm water has also been shown to prove extremely effective when looking to clear blocked sinuses. The humidity created by the warm water helps thin out any substances, typically mucus, that blocks your sinus pathways (Healthline, 2019). Once again, this will help reduce the amount of pressure that builds up around your head, further reducing the risk of suffering from sinus headaches.
I cannot stress enough the importance of seeking medical advice for any and all of the conditions we have discussed in this blog. Each of the claims are fully referenced and the sources are detailed below.
Contraindications: In some circumstances, hydrotherapy would not be appropriate or recommended as a headache treatment, for instance a fever – where whole body warming is not recommended if the temperature is present, or Hypertension (high blood pressure) where you’d want to avoid increased blood flow which may place stress on the heart and some vascular conditions, where increased circulation is not advised.
I hope that, in conjunction with medical advice and intervention, your Hydropool spa can help soothe your headaches and improve the quality of your life but please, again, talk to your doctor.
To experience Hydropool Midlands’ Hot Tubs and Swim Spas for yourself, visit our showroom just off junction 25 of the M1 for Nottingham. Request a brochure or a home visit and you can find out more across the Hydropool Midlands website, or by calling 0800 144 8827.
- Hansson, L, Smith, D, Reeves, R, Lapuerta, P (2000) Headache in Mild-to-Moderate Hypertension and Its Reduction by Irbesartan Therapy. Journal of the American Medical Association. 160 (11) .p. 1654-1658
- Harvard Health (2020) Hot baths and saunas: Beneficial for your heart? [Internet] available from: <https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/hot-baths-and-saunas-beneficial-for-your-heart>
- MayoClinic (2021) Tension headache [Internet] available from: <https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tension-headache/symptoms-causes/syc-20353977>
- NHS (2018) Tension-type headaches [Internet] available from: <https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/tension-headaches/>
- An, J, Lee, I, Yi, Y (2019) The Thermal Effects of Water Immersion on Health Outcomes: An Integrative Review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Research. 16 (7).
- Mooventhan, A, Nivethitha, L (2014) Scientific Evidence-Based Effects of Hydrotherapy on Various Systems of the Body. North American Journal of Medical Sciences. 6 (5) .p. 199-209
- American Migraine Foundation (2021) Tension-Type Headache [Internet] available from: <https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/tension-type-headache/>
- NICE (2011) Botulinum toxin type A for the prophylaxis of headaches in adults with chronic migraine.
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (2020) Migraine Information Page [Internet] available from: <https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Migraine-Information-Page>
- NHS (2019) Migraine [Internet] available from: <https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/migraine/>
- MayoClinic (2021) Migraines: Simple steps to head off the pain [Internet] available from: <https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/migraine-headache/in-depth/migraines/art-20047242>
- Haghayegh, S, Khoshnevis, S, Smolensky, M, Diller, K, Castriotta, R (2019) Before-bedtime passive body heating by warm shower or bath to improve sleep: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Sleep Medicine Reviews. 46 .p. 124-135
- HealthLine (2020) Tension Headaches [Internet] available from: <https://www.healthline.com/health/tension-headache#1>
- Health Line (2020) Sinus Infection Symptoms [Internet] available from: <https://www.healthline.com/health/cold-flu/sinus-infection-symptoms>
- MayoClinic (2021) Sinus headaches [Internet] available from: <https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sinus-headaches/symptoms-causes/syc-20377580>
- Brennan, K, Charles, A (2009) Sleep and Headache. Seminars in Neurology. 29 (4).p. 406-418
- Freiwald, J, Magni, A, Fanlo-Mazas, P, Paulino, E, Medeiros, L, Moretti, B, Schleip, R, Solarino, G (2021) A Role for Superficial Heat Therapy in the Management of Non-Specific, Mild-to-Moderate Low Back Pain in Current Clinical Practice: A Narrative Review. Life. 11 (780)