Maybe you haven’t heard much mention about cluster headaches in your work or social circles and that might very well be because they only affect 1% of the entire population, with a ratio of 85% men to 15% women.
Women who have had them describe them as worse than being in labor and some experts describe the pain as the worst known to man.
Dr. Peter Goadsby, a leading researcher on cluster headaches and a professor of Clinical Neurology at University College London, draws this “not-so-pretty” picture of cluster headache pain:
“Cluster headache is probably the worst pain that humans experience. I know that’s quite a strong remark to make, but if you ask a cluster headache patient if they’ve had a worse experience, they’ll universally say they haven’t. Women with cluster headache will tell you that an attack is worse than giving birth. So you can imagine that these people give birth without anesthetic once or twice a day, for six, eight or ten weeks at a time, and then have a break. It’s just awful.”
Wow… who wouldn’t want permanent relief from that kind of pain?
Cluster Headache Symptoms
Cluster headaches are often referred to as “suicide headaches” because of the intense pain associated with them. Typical characteristics and symptoms of cluster headaches may include:
- Immediate onset – unlike migraines, the intense pain that is a classic symptom of cluster headaches can attack immediately, with no “early warning” signals
- Frequent attacks during a “cluster period” – cluster headaches tend to occur several times a day (up to 8) for weeks and months at a time, with many sufferers experiencing one-two cluster periods a year
- Duration typically lasts between 15 minutes and three hours
- Excruciating pain that affects one eye; pain may extend to the forehead, cheek area, head, and neck
- Swelling, drooping, redness, sweating and/or tearing in or around the affected eye
- Stuffy or runny nose on the same side as the affected eye
Those who suffer from cluster headaches describe the pain like this, “It’s like having a hot poker stuck into your eye or like having someone try to pull your eye out from the top or back of your head.” Although cluster headaches usually only affect one eye, they can shift between eyes during the same cluster period and rarely affect both eyes at the same time.
Unlike migraine headache sufferers, who often feel better while lying down, those with cluster headaches generally prefer to stand or sit up and may pace restlessly during an attack.
Cluster Period Characteristics
The initial onset of cluster headaches generally begins between the ages of 20 and 40. They occur during cluster periods that can range from a few days to four-eight weeks and beyond. Cluster periods are usually followed by remission periods that typically last from 90 days to several years. For some people, cluster periods may occur seasonally or at the same times each year. Others may experience cluster headaches for years with no remission periods.
Cluster headaches are also referred to as “alarm clock” headaches because they occur with time-like precision at the same hours of the day (usually during the night) and last for the same length of time.
Cluster Headache Causes
As with many headaches, no one is sure about the exact cause of cluster headaches, but because they occur with such cyclic regularity at precisely the same times of day and year, it is believed that they are tied into the body’s “biological clock, ” which is located deep in the brain in the hypothalamus. Abnormalities in this region of the brain may account for the occurrence of cluster headaches as there is increased activity in this area during cluster headache episodes as well.
Other areas of interest include changes in levels of brain neurotransmitters that carry brain signals, such as serotonin, and changes in the levels of certain hormones, such as cortisol and melatonin.
Although foods generally have no bearing on cluster headaches, drinking alcohol during a cluster period often triggers a headache.
Traditional Cluster Headache Treatments
Because there is no cure for cluster headache, most treatment is geared toward relieving their severe symptoms or preventing them from occurring at all. And… since their duration is short, over-the-counter pain relievers are not considered a suitable treatment option because the headache would be gone before this type of medication could ever take effect.
So, most treatment looks at ways to prevent cluster headaches from even starting. Doctors usually prescribe short-term preventive medications that a patient takes until other long-term preventive medications, begun at the same time, have enough time to become effective.
Short-term preventive medications for cluster headaches include corticosteroids and ergot medications (also used to treat migraines) taken before bedtime and injections of numbing agents (nerve blocks). However, serious side effects are associated with many of these alternatives.
Long-term preventive medications include calcium channel blockers along with medications typically used for bi-polar disorder (lithium) and to prevent seizures. Again, these medications also carry risks for serious side effects and some require frequent blood testing to monitor organ function.
Headache relief for the acute symptoms associated with cluster headaches include:
- Inhaled oxygen that may provide relief within 15 minutes of the onset of an attack
- Triptans, the same class of medication used to treat migraines (i.e., Imitrex®), in injectable form and other triptans in nasal spray form
- Local anesthetics (i.e., lidocaine), in the form of nasal drops
- Dihydroergotamine, an ergo derivative, available in injection, inhaler and intravenous forms; intravenous administration require hospital admission
Many drug treatments require consistent monitoring for potential damage to thyroid, liver, heart and kidney function and to check drug levels in the blood.
As a last resort, after all options have proven ineffective, surgery may be recommended. This type of surgery damages the nerve pathways that are believed to be responsible for cluster headache pain. This type of surgery can result in muscle weakness in the jaw and/or loss of sensitivity in certain areas of the face and head and hasn’t proven to be all that successful.
Lifestyle Advice for Cluster Headache Relief
There are several non-drug cluster headache relief lifestyle recommendations that may limit cluster headache episodes and severity. These include:
- Eliminating afternoon/evening naps; avoiding any major changes in sleep habits
- Avoiding use of alcohol during cluster period
- Avoiding extreme changes in altitude, due to changes in oxygen levels
- Limiting exposure to chemical agents (oil-based paint, gasoline)
- Avoiding tobacco use
Headache Relief – The Way Nature Intended!
Let’s face it – cluster headache pain is the worst type of headache pain there is. Watching someone you love in the throes of an attack is frustrating and heartbreaking. You feel so out of control and so does the cluster headache sufferer. What can you do?
What if you knew about an all-natural treatment that looks to identify the cause of cluster headache symptoms? We believe that you’d try just about anything. In fact, we’re sure of it, which is why we want to talk to you about chiropractic care.
Headache relief is one of the top reasons why people seek the help of chiropractors. And why is chiropractic care so effective in providing headache relief? “It’s because chiropractors aren’t only concerned with relieving your pain; they want to eliminate the probable cause of your headaches from a structural standpoint, ” says a busy chiropractor in Bowie.
Chiropractors are highly educated and licensed healthcare practitioners who don’t believe in drugs and surgery that simply place a band-aid on your symptoms but don’t cure what’s causing your headache in the first place. And… chiropractic has been shown to be effective in treating all types of headaches, not just cluster headaches!
How can chiropractors provide headache relief care when they can’t prescribe medications? They can, and they do, because they are trained to correct spinal misalignments that are pressing on nerves that exit from the spine. This nerve interference can be the very cause of your headache pain – no matter what type of headache you have.
When a spinal bone is misplaced, even just a fraction of an inch from its normal placement, the nerves that are compromised as a result can’t carry communication signals from the brain to the affected body part. Chiropractors locate these misalignments and correct them, using safe and natural spinal adjustments. After the bone is put back into place and the nerve is no longer under pressure, your body is able to heal – no drugs and no surgery needed!
Directory of chiropractors in Calgary.
A Promising Alternative That You Should Try!
The sponsors of ChooseNatural.com want nothing more than to see you freed from the excruciating pain of cluster headaches. They are caring professionals who take the time to truly understand your particular situation. They take a detailed health history to learn about the symptoms, severity, duration and frequency of your cluster headaches and provide you with a thorough examination.
They’ll encourage you to try to remember a time in the past when you might have experienced head trauma as the result of a fall or injury. These types of accidents often result in head and neck trauma that cause spinal bones to become misplaced.
There are millions of people who have already obtained lasting relief from all types of headaches because of chiropractic care. In fact, many of them no longer require medications with risky side effects at all!
Our sponsors can’t guarantee these same results for everyone, but would chiropractic be the most popular healthcare alternative for headache relief if it wasn’t successful? Why not see if chiropractic can offer you relief from your cluster headaches – call one of our sponsors today! Click here for a Choose Natural sponsor in your area.