Cold intervention for relieving migraine symptoms: A systematic review and meta-analysis

J Clin Nurs. 2023 Jun;32(11-12):2455-2465. doi: 10.1111/jocn.16368. Epub 2022 May 20.


Aims: To evaluate the effectiveness of the cold intervention on relieving migraine symptoms among adult patients with migraine.

Designs: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials (RCT) and non-RCT studies were performed.

Data sources: We searched five electronic databases including Cochrane Library and Cochrane CENTRAL, Embase, MEDLINE, Scopus and CINAHL from the date of inception to March 2021.

Review methods: Research was eligible for the systematic review if they included adult patients with migraine, using cold regimen as intervention, and outcomes measuring the symptom alleviation of migraine. Two researchers independently conducted the searching process and data extraction. The certainty of evidence was assessed using GRADE approach to the main outcomes was used. The PRISMA checklist was used to assure the quality and transparency of report.

Results: Six studies (4 RCTs and 2 non-RCTs) met the inclusion criteria. The cold interventions on migraine alleviation include a cold-gel headband, cold-gel cap, intraoral cooling, skin temperature biofeedback and cold wrap accompanied by massage. Compared to non-cold regimens, the cold interventions had a short-term effect on reducing migraine pain rated on the Visual Analog Scale (VAS) score at 30 min after intervention (Std. mean difference [SMD] -3.21; 95% CI -5.94, -0.48). Compared to the non-cold regimens, the cold interventions had marginal long-term effects on relieving migraine pain VAS score (SMD -0.44; 95% CI -0.91, 0.03) and nausea (SMD -0.56; 95% CI -1.17, 0.04) (24 h after intervention). The GRADE indicated that the certainty of evidence was rated from very low to moderate. Insufficient results on the outcomes of nausea and vomiting were discovered for the meta-analysis.

Conclusions: Cold intervention is an effective regimen to reduce migraine pain instantly. The long-term effect of cold interventions on migraine is not demonstrated. The effects of cold interventions on nausea and vomiting need more studies to verify.

Keywords: RCT; cold intervention; meta-analysis; migraine; systematic review.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Humans
  • Migraine Disorders* / therapy
  • Nausea
  • Pain
  • Vomiting