January 20, 2017

Preventing Cluster Headache Recurrence

Natural Relief for the Worst Pain on Earth

by Dr. Scott Saunders

Imagine a headache waking you in the middle of the night. The pain is so intense it can only be described as a “a red hot poker being pushed through your right eye and out the back of your head.”

This severe headache may last from minutes to two hours. Nothing you do can relieve it. It goes away as suddenly and mysteriously as it came.  In some cases, the exteremly painful headache occur in clusters – usually at the same time every morning and lasts for weeks. Then, it goes away for months or years.  It is only on one side, but can switch sides, centering in the eye.  Most often the eye tears profusely.

Type of headachePeople who have them call them “suicide headaches.” Because it seems like the only way to get pain relief is death.  Doctors call them “cluster headaches.”  They affect about one person in a thousand, regardless of age.  Some get them in childhood, and continue to have them throughout life. While others get them much later in life – even into the 9th decade.  Women most commonly get them after age 60.  Those who get them assure us it is the worst pain any human can experience – beyond childbirth and kidney stones.

Anatomy of a Cluster Headache

Cluster headaches are a problem with the autonomic nervous system.  These are the nerves that unconsciously regulate and automate body functions. So you don’t have to think about controlling your temperature, blood pressure, heart, breathing, digestion and so forth.

how trigeminal nerve causes cluster headachesIn cluster headaches, something goes wrong in the sensory nerves of the head.  Specifically, the “trigeminal nerve” is affected. There are three branches of this nerve, and people can get pain in any branch.  Tooth pain and jaw pain come from the lower branches. But because the eye is so full of sensory nerves, the upper ophthalmic branch of the nerve can cause the worst pain.

Cluster headaches may be caused by inflammation of trigeminal nerves off the brainstem behind the eyes. It sends impulses throughout the cranium and face, causing distinctive stabbing, throbbing pain usually felt in one eye.

Studies indicate that because the blood vessels are smaller, the blood supply may be diminished. The lower blood flow may causes headache pain in the nerves.[1] Problems with blood flow are associated with many illnesses such as arthritis, lupus, or other autoimmune diseases.  Blood flow is also associated with activation of the hypothalamus, which controls parts of the autonomic nervous system,[2] and even tumors of the pituitary gland.[3]

Cluster Headache Treatment

To relieve the sharp, constant pains triggered by the trigeminal nerve, cluster headache treatments have included:

  • Prescription pain medications
  • Morphine
  • Marijuana
  • Sedative drugs
  • Cutting the nerve to create constant numbness

Sometimes these work. But amazingly the pain is not relieved by even the strongest prescription pain medications.  Until a supply of blood circulation returns and the nerve is working, the pain will not be relieved.

Current cluster treatment and medications include:

Aborting the Current Cluster Attack

  • Sumatriptan injections or nasal spray
  • Lidocaine
  • Capsaiacin
  • Ergotamine

Breaking the Cluster

  • Corticosteroids (prednisone)

Preventing Clutter Headache Recurrence

  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Methysergide
  • Lithium
  • Anti-convulsants

Seeking the Cause of Clutter Headaches

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