This excruciatingly painful and potentially debilitating condition can turn into a virtual nightmare if not treated in time. Thus, it is no surprise that those who suffer invariably wonder how to get rid of cluster headaches.
Cluster or ‘suicide’ headaches, as they are more commonly known, are a disconcerting experience and some may consider the name to be suggestive as the pain is unbearable and refuses to subside.
The good news is that there are numerous cluster headache remedies available and reversal is invariably achieved with little or no residual damage.
Demographics and lifestyle
Statistics have shown that 1% of the population has suffered cluster headaches at some point of time. Concurrently, statistics also indicate that 85% of the affected are men, thus it could well be surmised that men are more susceptible as compared to women and children. What makes it even more fascinating is the fact that heavy smokers tend to have more severe symptoms as compared to non smokers.
What are cluster headaches
A relatively rare type of headache, cluster headaches are known to affect a mere 1 to 2 people out of every 1.000 Americans.
These are essentially headaches limited to one side of the head with a significant localization of symptoms in the region behind the eyeball. Although, they are limited to one side of the head it is not unusual for the headaches to spread to the other side.
Alternatively, these cluster headaches may start from one side of the head and then spread to the face, temples, and the forehead. In these situations where the headache has become bilateral, a diagnosis can be difficult.
Cluster headache symptoms
Symptoms associated with cluster headaches occur suddenly and could surface with some or more of these manifestations:
According to MayoClinic the headache begins in the night an hour or two after going to bed in apparently healthy individuals. Once the symptoms have appeared they begin to grow very rapidly. It may take a mere 5 to 10 minutes for the symptoms to peak.
Duration and frequency
These symptoms may last for at least 30 minutes to a max of 3 hours in exceptional circumstances. The frequency can vary, while some attacks may occur on alternate days, there will be others which may occur as frequently as eight times in a single day.
These headaches may have begun as an episode of severe pain localized to the region just behind one eye and may then spread rapidly to adjoining areas like the forehead, head, neck, and the cheeks.
Associated Symptoms and Signs
Typically, the affected eye may turn red and swollen and may even present with increased watering.
This is usually associated with a blocked and stuffy nose in addition to systemic symptoms like nausea and vomiting.
Memory loss continues to be a cause for concern, although the good news is that this loss is short term and temporary.
What causes cluster headaches
Alcohol is arguably one of the triggers which can cause cluster headaches. Clinical studies in recent times have now concluded that if one is suffering from a cluster headache, it is important that alcohol is avoided until the symptoms subside.
On the contrary, there may be other irritants which can also trigger an attack. To illustrate the case in point, inhaling petrol and paint fumes can be an important trigger which can initiate an attack of cluster headaches.
When one works out or exercises intensively, there is loss of water from the body and there could be some degree of dehydration. This can trigger an attack of cluster headaches. Thus, it is not surprising that experts are of the opinion that those with a history or family history of cluster headaches must avoid intense workouts.
How to get rid of cluster headaches fast and naturally
Cluster headaches are arguably associated with very severe pain localized to the region behind the eye as well as the head. What makes it even more disconcerting, is the fact that the pain occurs without any warning signs.
However, over the counter (OTC) medications are not very effective, considering that they need time to start acting and the symptoms may have subsided on their own by that time.
Thus, the pick of options is to first identify the cause and trigger and then adopt the right preventive measures to ensure that future attacks are minimized. The more innovative invariably adopt natural remedies which are quick acting and may help control the symptoms quickly. Here are some of the suggestions on how to treat cluster headaches.
One of the more popular options is to retain the services of a chiropractor for quick relief of symptoms. Chiropractors can give you a quick relief and also help modify the course of this potentially debilitating headache.
A chiropractor does not prescribe medications or surgery and they believe that measures like making the right structural changes are far more effective as a treatment option.
Chiropractors work on the premise that the spine is made up of multiple bones known as vertebra. When nerves exiting from the spine between these vertebras get compressed, it is normal for symptoms like cluster headaches to surface.
Thus, it is not surprising that chiropractors are adept at correcting spinal deformities and reversing the symptoms commonly associated with cluster headaches. Once the displaced bone is replaced to the original alignment using safe spinal correction maneuvers, the compression is reversed and the symptoms subside.
Experts believe that one of the common causes of cluster headaches is stress. The solution could be as simple as adopting one or more stress busting techniques:
One of the most effective stress relieving techniques is to ensure that one gets a minimum of seven to eight hours of sleep every night. Studies have now proved beyond doubt that sleeping less can activate the alert response system in the human body. This can lead to increasing stress levels which in turn triggers off cluster headaches.
Move for health
Exercise is arguably one of the greatest stress busters which have been known to alleviate or reverse cluster headaches. When one exercises, there is a remarkable increase in the amount of endorphin produced by the body.
Endorphin is known to be a ‘feel good’ chemical which can even increase energy levels in the body. This will minimize the symptoms associated with cluster headaches.
The recommended regime is to adopt moderate exercise as a way of life, repeated three times a week and limiting the session length to 45 minutes.
One of the causes of stress induced cluster headaches is arguably ‘hunger pangs’. Thus, experts advise not to skip meals.
When it comes to diet, it is important that the fat content should be low while the complex carbohydrate representation is high. The meal is best complemented with fish and dark green leafy vegetables, which are strong anti-inflammatory drugs.
Although, nutritionists advocate plenty of fluids including water to help keep the body hydrated and stress levels low; caffeinated beverages like tea and coffee are best avoided. Caffeine is known to aggravate cluster headaches.
Yet another logical reason for eating healthy, is that it would help one maintain an ideal body weight. Obesity has many hazards, and triggering cluster headaches is yet another.
Taking a break
When the schedule is tight and there are too many activities to coordinate, cluster headaches are known to occur. Therapists recommend to make ‘personal’ time available.
To further elaborate the case in point, the preferred option is to take a break from your regular routine and keep time for yourself. This could be as simple as taking a fifteen minute walk by yourself or alternatively listening to music. Essentially, just being on your own for some time.
Capsaicin is an active ingredient found in abundance in peppers. When included in your diet or taken as a nasal spray, capsaicin is known to reduce the levels of substance P. This is a neurotransmitter in the brain which is responsible for the transmission of pain sensations. When the level of substance P is low, the outcome is lower sensation of pain. This will results in relief of cluster headache symptoms.
The new buzzword in managing cluster headaches is herbs and naturals. Although, the market is replete with a diverse range of options, there are few parallels to the now familiar Ginkgo Biloba.
This is one of the herb supplements which could be predominantly classified as an antioxidant. This is not surprising, considering that one of the active ingredients present in ginkgo biloba is flavonoids.
Terpenoids are yet another active ingredient present in ginkgo biloba which can increase the circulation of blood to the brain. Experts are of the opinion that this could lead to increased oxygenation of the brain, leading to instant relief of symptoms.
Staying hydrated and drinking plenty of water helps controlling and reversing the symptoms associated with cluster headaches. The water regime is simply drinking plenty of water during and in between attacks. If you drink one six ounce glass of water every half an hour for three to four hours, you would be hydrated enough and the severity of symptoms would subside quickly.
It is not unusual for a high sugar diet to be associated with cluster headaches.
Sugar is strongly inflammatory and can be the cause of inflammation in the region of the brain as well as the nerves. Naturalists advise to modify the diet plan so that sugar content is kept low.
The Ginger therapy
When a cluster headache begins, the time is right to opt for ginger tea. Ginger tea consumed three to four times a day can go a long way. It can soothe and reverse cluster headaches.
Ginger is anti-inflammatory in action. When ginger tea is consumed, it reduces the inflammation in the body, leading to relief of pain. Also, ginger relaxes the blood vessels in the brain by releasing pain relieving opiods in the brain. Thus, it is not surprising that ginger continues to be considered as one of the most effective options in contemporary times.
Hypnosis is another great way of dealing with cluster headaches. Studies have now proved that hypnosis can help minimize pain and the frequency of attacks.
Hypnosis for pain works on the concept of minimizing anxiety and helping the patient to control the pain. One of the innovative techniques is to use mental imagery, wherein the patient can visualize pain as a dial or a watch face. Then the patient is encouraged to try and decrease the amount of pain on the dial face.
Studies have shown that the frequency and severity of pain decreases appreciably when pain hypnosis is adopted as a countermeasure.