Most people are familiar with the term migraine headache, but not many people are as familiar with the term cluster headache. Headaches today are common enough that most people have experienced them at one point or another, but there is a percentage of the population that suffers from them regularly. While millions of Americans are dealing with migraines, there is another sector of the population that is dealing with something as equally troubling, the cluster headache. Here we will talk about what a cluster headache is, and how to treat it effectively so that you can go on with your life.
A cluster headache is very similar to a migraine headache in many ways, and is considered to be a headache that is more severe than the average headache. Unlike migraine headaches that generally last from 3 to 48 hours, cluster headaches on the other hand last much longer, days even for many. Cluster headaches occur in episodes or periods, and this is where they get their name “cluster”, as they occur in clusters of time and last longer than the average headache. Eventually the headache will subside, only to resume again days or weeks later. People with cluster headaches suffer just as much as those with migraines as the pain is no less intense, and happen more repeatedly than migraines.
Symptoms of cluster headaches differ from the throbbing pain that is associated with migraine headaches considerably. A cluster headache usually starts in the sleep cycle of the patient, and they will wake up with headache pain that is localized around one of their eyes, and will describe the pain as radiating to the center or back of their head. They may experience a runny nose and/or a flushed face, and these attacks can last anywhere from fifteen minutes to fifteen days. The individual will experience these attacks every day for a period of days, or over a “cluster” of days.
The pain from cluster headaches is often categorized as moderate to severe, and can severely debilitate the person that is affected. The exact cause of cluster headaches is unknown, but they are known to originate in the brain and are neurological in nature. This is another way that cluster headaches differ from migraines, as migraines can be caused by weather changes, hormonal changes, or even dietary changes. Cluster headaches on the other hand are brain based, meaning diet, weather, hormones or other factors do not often play a role, unless those factors alter brain chemistry to the point of experiencing headache pain.
Like most headache research, there is little research available that can exactly pinpoint the cause of the cluster headache, or even why they occur so frequently. Some doctors believe cluster headaches are related to chemistry in the hypothalamus, and others believe that spinal alignment plays a role. In some patients, chiropractic work has shown to lessen the pain of cluster headaches, but only on a short term basis. As well, chiropractic treatment does not help everyone with cluster headaches and so spinal misalignment may not always be the cause.
Because every person with cluster headaches will have different symptoms from the next, treatment will vary considerably from one patient to another. Chiropractic treatment can help some patients, but not everybody. Today, pain medication such as Tramadol, known to target moderate to severe pain is very useful for the treatment of cluster headaches. Tramadol has become a popular choice with doctors today, due to its low addictive potential, and its ability to access the blood brain barrier and stop pain signals from firing. For people struggling with headaches, Tramadol is a very effective treatment and well tolerated by many.