What to do About Cluster Headaches

When you’re in the middle of a headache, it all feels the same, but there are actually at least four main types of headaches, each with its own unique set of symptoms and treatments. Among them are cluster headaches. 

Dr. David Wu, our interventional pain management expert at CurePain, specializes in identifying and treating cluster headaches and can help you find relief from your symptoms. Here’s everything you should know about this type of headache and your treatment options. 

What are cluster headaches?

Cluster headaches are often regarded as one of the most painful types of headaches. They get their name from their tendency to strike in cyclical or cluster periods, typically lasting for several weeks to a few months.

A cluster headache often strikes quickly and without warning (though some people experience migraine-like nausea and aura). You may notice that the duration of your cluster headaches is consistent or that they occur seasonally, such as every spring or fall. 

Sometimes, cluster headaches are episodic and last for one week up to a year, followed by a headache-free period that can last as long as 12 months. 

If you live with chronic cluster headaches, you may have headaches for more than a year, and/or have pain-free periods that only last a month. 

During a cluster period, your headaches usually:

Cluster headaches are different from other headaches because they typically develop suddenly, rapidly decrease in intensity, and then leave you exhausted once the pain subsides. Other symptoms unique to cluster headaches are:

When a cluster headache strikes, you might feel like pacing or rocking back and forth while sitting, or have sensitivity to light and sound on the affected side. 

It’s important that you schedule an appointment with Dr. Wu if you’ve just started having cluster headaches. Headaches, even ones that are severe, don’t always point to underlying health conditions, but it’s a good idea to have our expert evaluate you to rule out other disorders and find an effective treatment. 

What causes cluster headaches?

There’s no exact known cause of cluster headaches; however, the pattern of cluster headaches suggests that abnormalities in your body’s biological clock are at play. 

Some factors that increase most at risk for developing this type of headache are:

A family history of cluster headaches can also contribute to your likelihood of developing them. 

Though they’re not like migraines and aren’t set off by triggers like food additives, hormonal changes, or stress, cluster headaches can be set off by alcohol and certain medications during a cluster period. 

How do you treat cluster headaches?

Fortunately, though cluster headaches can be severe and chronic, there are a variety of treatment options available to help you manage your symptoms and prevent future attacks. 

Dr. Wu meets with you to discuss your symptoms and health history before creating your treatment plan. Here’s a closer look at the treatments we recommend most often.

Pain medication

There are many prescription medications that you can take before or during an attack to reduce the frequency and severity of your headaches. We conduct a thorough review of your unique situation before prescribing a medication. 

Injections

We offer nerve blocks that target the nerves in your brain that are susceptible to causing headache pain and other symptoms. Never blocks involve administering small amounts of medication designed to block pain and alleviate your symptoms. 

Preventive methods

The best compliments to your other cluster headache treatments are simple lifestyle adjustments that support your overall health. As a part of your treatment plan, we may recommend some ways to avoid a cluster headache during a cluster period. These include avoiding the following:

We can help you identify other possible triggers or lifestyle factors that might contribute to your headaches. 

If you’d like more information, request an appointment online or over the phone at our Torrance, California, office. 

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