Cluster headaches are a severe type of headache that can occur in a “cluster period,” ranging from a certain number of days to months. While cluster headers are non-life threatening, they can be very painful. Fortunately, some home treatments, such as deep breathing exercises and melatonin, can ease cluster headache symptoms.
Home Remedies for Cluster Headaches
A few home treatments can ease cluster headaches and related symptoms. It's important to note that alternative treatment options lack substantial research regarding their effectiveness. Below are a few options that are currently available.
Melatonin is a bodily hormone that regulates your sleeping patterns and is also available as an over-the-counter supplement. People who experience cluster headaches often have lower melatonin levels. Therefore, they might benefit from a melatonin supplement.
When taken before bedtime, traditional melatonin supplement doses range between 10 and 25 milligrams, which can help prevent cluster headaches.
Deep Breathing Exercises
Oxygen therapy is one of the more popular treatments for cluster headaches. This treatment method increases the amount of oxygen in your bloodstream, calms your body, and manages pain.
Deep breathing exercises are a common way to calm your mind and body and regulate your oxygen flow. Common stress-relieving techniques include box and pursed lip breathing.
Low magnesium levels are commonly associated with certain headaches, including cluster headers. Therefore a magnesium supplement or increasing consumption of food high in magnesium might work to reduce your cluster headache symptoms.
If you consider implementing a magnesium supplement, talk to your doctor beforehand.
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Capsaicin is a compound naturally found in peppers that possess pain-relieving properties. The Capsaicin compound influences the communication of neurotransmitters that signal feelings of pain to the brain. Therefore the compound reduces the perception of pain.
You purchase Capsaicin cream over the counter and gently applied to the inside of your nose with a cotton swab.
Although home remedies might ease your symptoms, you must consult your physician to find a formal treatment plan that is right for you.
About Cluster Headaches
Cluster headaches are a severe type of headache that occurs in cluster periods, lasting for a few days to months. Cluster headaches typically occur as intense pain in or around one eye or side of your head.
Unlike migraine, cluster headaches come with no warning signs or progression of symptoms. Common signs and symptoms during a cluster headache include:
- Excessive tearing
- Excruciating pain isolated behind one eye
- Redness of the eye affected
- Stuffy nose
- Facial Sweating
- Swelling around the affected eye
Source: Mayo Clinic
Cluster Period Characteristics
A cluster period typically lasts for several weeks to months. Each period's starting date and duration are consistent from period to period. For example, someone might experience cluster periods four times a year, lasting for one month at a time. After a cluster period, individuals experience a remission period of no pain before another cluster headache develops.
During cluster periods, individuals might experience the following:
- Headaches occur every day, sometimes multiple times per day
- Single attack lasting from fifteen minutes to three hours
- Attacks occurring same time every day
- Most attacks occur at night, one to two hours after your go to bed.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below is a list of frequently asked questions regarding cluster headaches and medical treatment options
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What Causes Cluster Headaches?
The actual cause of cluster headaches is still being investigated by researchers, with several theories currently being tested. Right now, there is a large assumption that cluster headaches are linked to the activity of the hypothalamus gland located at the base of your brain. The hypothalamus possesses reflex pathways that control pain in your face and behind the eyes.
How Can I Prevent Cluster Headaches?
While there is no specific cure for cluster headaches, there are changes to your everyday life you can make that can decrease the frequency of headaches:
- Consistent Sleep Schedule
- Avoiding Tobacco and Alcohol
- Prioritizing daily exercises
Are There Risk Factors That Contribute to Cluster Headaches?
As previously mentioned, researchers are still trying to understand the causes and what contributes to the prevalence of cluster headaches. However, there are a few risk factors that contribute to cluster headaches:
- Sex: Research suggests men are more likely to have cluster headaches
- Age: Most people develop cluster headaches between the ages of 20 and 50
- Smoking: Many individuals who experience cluster headaches are smokers
- Alcohol Use: Drinking alcohol might increase your risk of experiencing an attack during your cluster period
- Family History: Having a parent or sibling who has cluster headaches can increase your risk
When Should I Seek Out Professional Medical Care?
If you just started experiencing bouts of cluster headaches, you should see your doctor to rule out other disorders to find the most effective treatment. Additionally, headache pain can indicate other serious medication conditions, so getting a professional opinion is essential if your headaches have just started.
If you have a history of cluster headaches, you should seek out medical care if the patterns of your cluster periods have changed or feel different in comparison to other periods.
Seek emergency care immediately if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms:
- An abrupt headache
- A headache along with a fever, nausea, vomiting, mental confusion, seizures, numbness or difficulty speaking
- Headache after head injury
- Headache that worsens over days and changes in the pattern
Cluster headaches are one of the most severe types of headaches that come with debilitating pain. Although they are not life-threatening, the pain experienced during a cluster period can hinder your daily activities. Fortunately, some home remedies can ease cluster headache symptoms. Furthermore, if you just start experiencing cluster headaches or experience a shift in your cluster patterns, it's important to seek out medical care and make your physician aware of the changes.
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Originally from Houston, Texas, Alexandra is currently getting her Master's in Public Health with a health policy certificate at Columbia University. One of her life goals is to own her own art gallery!