Cluster headaches are extremely painful occurrences that are focused right around one of eyes. This type of headache usually causes the affected eye to become red and watery, and causes nasal congestion in that side of the face. Cluster headaches typically occur within a few hours of sleep onset, reaching their peak within 15 minutes of appearing and lasting less than two hours.
Unfortunately, cluster headaches are a chronic condition. Sufferers may have one headache or more each day for multiple days, weeks, or months before a remission period that can last from weeks to years. While cluster headaches are a cause of recurring discomfort, they do not cause any permanent harm.
Cluster headaches are a relatively rare condition, and their exact cause is unknown. The leading theory is that the headaches are caused when a brain chemical provokes blood vessels to enlarge, putting pressure on facial nerves. Men are more susceptible to cluster headaches than women. Heavy smokers are at the highest risk for developing the condition. Alcohol consumption also can trigger attacks in people who suffer from cluster headaches.
Signs and Symptoms
- Extreme, sometimes throbbing, pain in and around one eye
- Redness and watering in the affected eye
- Nasal congestion on the affected side of the head.
- Flushing of the face
Conventional Medical Treatment
Cluster headaches do not respond well to treatment used for other types of headaches, namely over-the-counter analgesics. Many sufferers do not seek medical treatment, instead opting to manage the pain themselves. While this is certainly an option that will not cause you any permanent harm, you may want to visit your physician for a program of pain management. Because this type of headache is notoriously unresponsive to any Olle medication, conventional treatment typically involves a combination of two or three medicatiolls such as oxygen inhalation, ergotamine tartrate’ prednisone, methysergide maleate, lithium car: bonate, and calcium channel blocking agents.
Although cluster headaches are easy to diagnose, your physician may want to conduct a urinalysis, sinus X-ray, skull X-ray, or CAT scan to rule out other ailments that have similar symptoms, such as brain tumors, aneurysms, or sinusitis.
Complementary and Alternative Treatments
Nutrition and Supplementation
In addition to the information given under the “Tension Headache” entry, take the following daily supplements to relieve cluster headaches.
- L-tyrosine (as directed on label) (Do not take if you are currently using a monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitor.)
- L-glutamine (500 mg twice daily)
- quercetin (500 mg twice daily)
Ayurveda has three classifications for headaches: vata type, pitta type, and kapha type. For vata headaches-which are associated with tension in the neck and shoulders and start as throbbing pain in the back of the head-an Ayurvedic practitioner may suggest trying an enema or a sesame-oil massage.
For kapha headaches-which are associated with sinus congestion and usually start in the sinus area-a practitioner may recommend sipping spicy ginger-cinnamon tea and using a saline solution to wash the nasal passages.
To understand how chiropractic can help those who suffer from cluster headaches, it is important to know a little bit of anatomy: a nerve, an artery, and a vein flow out of every hole in the spine. In cluster headaches, the first and second cervical vertebrae may be involved. When a chiropractor relieves the Pressure of a vertebral subluxation through specific chiropractic adjustment (SCA) to the cervical upper neck) portion of the spine, blood flow, and nerve flow are restored. Therapy also may involve electromuscle stimulation and moist-heat application.
Homeopathic practitioners may suggest one of the following treatments for a tension headache, depending on your symptoms:
- Glonoine-for an acute, or sudden, headache from sun exposure; there is pounding pain, and your head feels as if it were bursting; you feel confused
- Belladonna-for a headache from sun exposure; your face is bright red, and you have throbbing pain
- Nux vomica-for a headache that results from overindulging in alcohol; the pain is severe and worsens when you move-even just your eyes-ever so slightly
- Gelsemium-for a headache from fright or anxiety; your head feels heavy and hard to lift.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
Acupuncture Because cluster headaches are thought to be sinus-related, acupuncture may be helpful in opening blocked nasal passages and alleviating sinus pressure, which, in turn, may reduce the frequency and severity of this type of headache. The acupuncturist’s targets points may include Large Intestine, Gallbladder, 1tiple Warmer, and related points in the ear.
Cluster headaches are usually related to a liver imbalance, and treating the liver with acupuncture can be useful in preventing future episodes. Acupuncture also can be used to promote relaxation, as cluster headaches are believed to be stress-induced.
Acupressure can encourage feelings of tranquility, which may help alleviate cluster headaches. Relevant acupressure points include: Gall bladder, Stomach, Large Intestine, Liver, Bladder, Triple Warmer, and related auricular points.
Chinese Herbal Therapy Chinese medical practitioners believe that headaches are a yang condition, caused by excessive heat and dysfunctions in hollow yang-related organs, such as the large and small intestine, liver, bladder, gallbladder, stomach, and triple warmer. To counteract chronic cluster headaches, an herbalist would recommend therapies that balance the energy within these organs and their corresponding meridians.
Herb formulas commonly used to treat cluster headaches include Bupleurum and Tang Cui Formula, Bupleurum and Dragon Bone Formula, and Leonurus and Achyranthes Formula. Further diagnosis may be required to achieve desired results.