3 Natural Solutions to Relieve Cluster Headaches

cluster headache remedies
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What Is a Cluster Headache?

Cluster headache is a type of pain that occurs in brief, severe attacks that affect only one side of the head. Cluster headaches often occur repeatedly throughout the day for weeks or months at a time, and then stop for several weeks or months. As with migraine headaches, the pain can be extremely intense or even unbearable.

Symptoms of Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches are characterized by a burning, stabbing, steady pain that often occurs in and around one eye.

The pain may quickly intensify, peaking within 10 minutes and lasting 30 minutes to three hours.

Cluster headaches most commonly strike two to three hours after falling asleep, and tend to occur at about the same time every night.

Attacks may be accompanied by the following symptoms:

  • swelling around the eyes
  • excessive tears
  • bloodshot eyes
  • runny nose (or stuffy nose on the same side as the head pain)
  • flushed face
  • agitation

Natural Remedies for Cluster Headache Relief

If you experience cluster headache attacks, talk to your doctor about using the following natural remedies and alternative therapies:

1) Melatonin

People with cluster headaches may have low levels of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep-wake cycles. Although scientists have yet to confirm whether taking melatonin supplements can benefit people with cluster headaches, a small study published in 2001 found that melatonin helped alleviate attacks.

2) Capsaicin

When taken regularly, capsaicin (the active ingredient in hot peppers) may help prevent the occurrence of cluster headache attacks. Available in nasal spray form, capsaicin is thought to reduce levels of substance P (a nervous system chemical involved in pain transmission).

3) Mind-Body Stress Relief

Stress is a trigger for cluster headache attacks. Although practices such as yoga and meditation haven't been specifically studied for their effects on cluster headache occurrence, they may help stave off attacks by keeping your stress in check.

Causes of Cluster Headaches

The exact cause of cluster headache is unknown. However, the condition may be related to abnormalities in blood vessels and nerves that affect parts of the head involved in cluster headache attacks.

Men, adults age 20 and older, and people with a family history of cluster headaches appear to be at an increased risk for the condition. Smoking, drinking alcohol, and being under stress can also raise your risk for a cluster headache attack.

Treatment

When left untreated, cluster headaches can occur repeatedly for years and interfere with your daily functioning. Although the following standard treatments won't cure cluster headaches, they can help ease your symptoms:

  • use of pain-relieving medication
  • oxygen therapy
  • physical therapies (such as hot and cold treatments)
  • injections
  • surgery

Using Natural Remedies for Cluster Headaches

Due to the limited research, it's too soon to recommend alternative medicine as a treatment for cluster headaches. If you're considering using it, talk to your doctor to weigh the potential risks and benefits. Keep in mind that alternative medicine should not be used as a substitute for standard care. Self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

Sources:

Gelfand AA, Goadsby PJ. The Role of Melatonin in the Treatment of Primary Headache Disorders. Headache. 2016 Jun 17. doi: 10.1111/head.12862. [Epub ahead of print].

Robbins MS, Starling AJ,  Pringsheim TM, Becker WJ, Schwedt TJ. Treatment of Cluster Headache: The American Headache Society Evidence-Based Guidelines. Headache. 2016 Jul;56(7):1093-106.

Rapoport AM, Bigal ME, Tepper SJ, Sheftell FD. Intranasal medications for the treatment of migraine and cluster headache. CNS Drugs. 2004;18(10):671-8.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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