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What are Cluster Headaches?

Headaches are an incredibly common condition that affects millions of people every day. There are several different types of headaches – all of which vary in terms of intensity and duration. One of the most painful and debilitating types of headaches is the “cluster headache.” Cluster headaches are a rare type of headaches that affects “less than 1 in 1,000 people” ( These types of headaches typically last a short period of time; however, they are extremely intense.

headache and migrain

Common symptoms for cluster headaches include:

  • One sided head pain
  • Rapid onset
  • Short duration (30-90 minutes)
  • Orbital pain and swelling (within the eye region)
  • Burning/piercing quality
  • Runny or congested nose
  • Red, warm face

Contributing Factors

There are several factors that contribute to cluster headaches. According to WebMD, “cluster headaches are more common in people who smoke or are heavy drinkers. During a cluster period, you’ll be more sensitive to alcohol and nicotine – just a bit of alcohol can trigger a headache.” In our clinical experience, chocolate may also be a factor that will trigger cluster headaches. A neurological component may be a factor as well.

Treatment Options

There are several approaches to treating cluster headaches.

  1. The primary approach that the majority of Americans take is medication. Most of these medications are classified as triptans, with the most popular one being sumatriptan (Imitrex). However, it is a well-known fact that all medications produce undesirable side-effects.
  2. The second option that is recommended for people who are dealing with cluster headaches is oxygen therapy. Oxygen therapy provides relief to most people; however, this is a temporary solution to the problem.
  3. Surgery may be considered as well. The goal of the surgical procedure is to block the nerve conduction of the trigeminal nerve. This option is only considered when all other option have been exhausted, due to the fact that the risk of infection or hemorrhage is high.
  4. The best approach to cluster headaches is neurologically-based chiropractic care. In many cases, there is a neurological component behind why a person is dealing with cluster headaches. Before trying more invasive and aggressive treatments, consider a thorough examination with one of our doctors. We will be able to definitively tell you if we can help you or not.

As one great doctor once said, “Procrastination is the biggest thief of health.”

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