Cluster Headaches – A New Approach

Cluster headaches, also called “suicide” headaches, are characterized by their periodicity and the excruciating pain that makes you literally want to bang your head into the wall or rip it off.

The pain comes on once or twice a day, sometimes more often, for several weeks at a time, then retreats for several months or years, only to return to repeat the cycle. 

Cluster headaches often involve several structures.

Cluster headache pain is described as boring (drilling), lancinating, and stabbing, lasting from several seconds to minutes, or hours.  The head pain tends to be centered in or around the eye socket (orbit) and the temple, but can be located anywhere on the head.

Often the pain is accompanied by drooping of the eyelid (ptosis), bloodshot conjunctiva (white of the eyeball), tearing of the eye (lacrimation), congested nasal passage, and runny nose (rhinorrhea), as well as sweating and flushing of the face.  All symptoms tend to be located on the side of the head pain.

The quality of the pain suggests the involvement of the cranial bones and their sutures (cranial sutures), which have nerves and blood vessels embedded in their fibrous tissue (connective tissue).

Cluster headaches, and other types of headaches, are often caused by old or new trauma to the head or face.

The pain, the periodicity, as well as all the other symptoms may in fact be caused by the body’s attempts to periodically release the build up of pressure caused by the locking up of cranial bones due to old and new trauma.

The trauma may even be traced back to birth trauma, a fall on the head as an infant, or the numerous injuries during childhood and teenage years.

Conventional treatment of cluster headaches.

The treatment protocol consists of oxygen therapy and heavy duty medical drugs such as

  • lithium — antimanic, antidepressant
  • ergotamine — constrictor of cerebral (brain) and peripheral blood vessels
  • verapamil — calcium channel blocker
  • methysergide — serotonin receptor agonist and antagonist
  • prednisone — synthetic corticosteroid
  • pizotifen — serotonin receptor antagonist
  • nifedipine — calcium channel blocke
  • nimodipine — calcium channel blockers
  • phenelzine — antidepressant and anxiolytic (monoamine oxidase inhibitor)
  • ergonovine — uterine stimulant
  • indomethacin — nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID)
  • cryptoheptadine — antihistamine and serotonin antagonist

While these prescription medications may help to ameliorate the frequency and severity of the cluster headaches, they do not cure them.  Moreover, they come with a hefty price tag in the form of side effects.  These side effects may need to be managed with additional medications.  It becomes a vicious cycle.

I’ll leave it to the reader to look up the stupendous list of side effects of these drugs.  Please pay attention not only to the most common side effects, but also those that are “rarely” experienced.  ALL side effects, no matter how minor, will adversely affect the body’s metabolism, and eventually lead to chronic disease.

Natural treatment options.

Naturopathic physicians, as well as Chinese doctors, have many tools to help reduce the severity  and frequency of cluster headaches, or eliminate them all together.

Herbs are potent pain relievers and muscle relaxants without the severe side effects of medical drugs.

Homeopathy could bring tremendous relief as well.

Acupressure, acupuncture, and my very favorite, craniosacral therapy, can all help to release the tension within the muscles and connective tissue which lead to a shifting and locking up of the cranial bones.  So, don’t give up.  Try something new and see what can happen.

Until the next natural healing perspective blog…

To Your Health