Headaches Part 4: Cluster Headaches

The last of our series on common headaches is an odd one – cluster headaches. These are certainly the least common occurring of the four types, and are very distinct in their symptoms.

This type of headache is 3 times more common in males than females, and typically occur between the ages of 20 and 50. Common risk factors or triggers include stress, bright lights, allergies, alcohol and tobacco. These may also be defined as episodic or chronic. Episodic cluster headaches last from 7 days to 1 year, separated by pain free intervals of approximately 2 weeks, typically lasting 2 weeks to 3 months. Chronic however occur or more than 1 year with no remission (or that of less than 2 weeks) and are more resistant to care.

Common symptoms include:

  • severe and sudden pain around the eye on one side described as piercing, boring, deep and not throbbing
  • last 5-180 minutes, but occur from once every other day to 8 times per day
  • happen more at night and may disturb sleep
  • sweating and flushing of one side of the face, tearing of the eye and/or runny nose
  • may report recent stress, extreme temperatures, allergic rhinitis, exercise, or heavy alcohol/tobacco use

If you are diagnosed with this type of headache, you may require medication prescribed by your medical doctor to help prevent and shorten attacks. However, you may also benefit from chiropractic treatment. Soft tissue techniques, neck mobilizations and acupuncture may all be beneficial in helping to provide relief. If triggers are identified, they should be reduced as much as possible. It is important to improve sleep routines, and to ensure meals are regular.

Unfortunately, these type of headaches tend to be a problem throughout life for those who suffer. This is why multi-disciplinary care can be so important to help manage symptoms.

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