Cluster Headache

Cluster Headache - Photo credit: Peter Hellberg - Flickr

If you’ve ever had a cluster headache, you know how painful it can be. These sudden-onset headaches have specific symptoms that identify them, such as:

  • Sudden pain in one eye that may spread to other parts of the head or face.
  • Pale facial skin.
  • Eye problems such as tearing, redness in the eye, and a droopy eyelid.
  • Nasal issues such as a stuffy or runny nose on the affected side.
  • Restlessness.
  • Pain only on one side of the body.
  • Laying down increases the pain.

There is no treatment for cluster headaches, so suffers and medical personnel strive to reduce the number and duration of the attacks.


Cluster headaches tend to occur during specific seasons of the year. Being aware of these periods of time may help you manage your symptoms. Behaviors can also trigger a cluster headache. Drinking and smoking can trigger an episode of the nasty headaches. Avoiding these habits during your cluster headache seasons can help you avoid a cluster headache from occurring. Three easy ways to prevent cluster headaches are to avoid alcohol, nicotine, and to get enough sleep on a regular basis.

Remedies to use during a Cluster Headache attack:

There are several medications that will help you prevent a cluster headache from continuing. They are to be taken at the first sign of an attack:


At the first sign of a cluster headache, inhale 100 percent oxygen at a rate of 12 liters per minute. Taking a few breaths of oxygen should relieve or greatly reduce the duration of the cluster headache. This is a safe and inexpensive way to ease cluster headache pain. You need to take oxygen with you during your cluster headache periods to make this treatment effective.

2.Calcium Channel Blockers

Verapamil and other calcium channel blockers can stop a cluster headache before it gets really bad. Use it or a combination of it and another drug your doctor recommends at the very onset of a cluster headache for the best relief.


Triptans, like Imitrex, are routinely used to treat migraine headaches. They also work well for cluster headaches. Imitrex is usually given by injection under medical observation the first time. Zomig is another type of triptan that is used for cluster headaches in nasal spray form. It works better for people with negative reactions to Imitrex.


Octreodide is a synthetic brain hormone that is also successfully used to treat cluster headaches.

5.Local Anesthetics

Some have used local anesthetics such as lidocaine to soothe their cluster headaches. In this case, Lidocaine is administered through the nose to relieve head pain.


Dihydroergotamine or D.H.E 45 can be administered through the veins. If you choose this route of receiving the medication, you will have to go to the doctor’s office, emergency room or hospital.

7.Lithium Carbonate

Lithium carbonate is to treat both cluster headaches and bipolar disorder. Lithium is used on cluster headache sufferers who have not found any other type of treatment successful. It needs to be monitored regularly with blood tests, and has some side effects. If you have not had success finding a medication that treats your cluster headache, lithium may be the choice for you. Other medications used to treat these headaches are anti-seizure medications such as Topeka and Depakote.

Natural and Herbal treatments for Cluster Headaches

A few herbal remedies have been found useful in some cases for cluster headaches. While studies are still being done, some success has been found when headache sufferers used kudzu and melatonin for some relief from this head pain.


Melatonin is usually used at bedtime to help regulate sleep patterns and to help a person sleep. While it might not totally relieve your cluster headaches, it has been shown to reduce the frequency of cluster headaches. The dose recommended is 10 milligrams in the evening each day.


Kudzu is an invasive vine that is used for medicinal purposes in Asian medicine. It is also used by some people for cluster headaches. Kudzu extract has improved the intensity, frequency and duration of cluster headaches in some people, though it does not lengthen the amount of time between cluster headache attacks.

10.Miscellaneous Alternative Relief for Cluster Headaches

Several alternative medicine treatments help with cluster headaches. Chiropractic, acupuncture, massage and therapeutic touch have been shown to be effective, but only in 10 percent of the cases studied.

Many areas now have counseling and support groups available to help you work through any feelings of frustration and depression that you may have in relation to this condition. Proper medication and a support group will help keep your quality of life high while medical science works to find a cure for these debilitating headaches.