Cluster headaches, also known as “suicide headaches,” are a rare yet debilitating form of non-life-threatening headaches. These headaches occur in cycles, with each cycle lasting from weeks to months. The extreme pain associated with cluster headaches can be unbearable for those who suffer from them.
Fortunately, chiropractic adjustment is an excellent method for relieving the pain and discomfort of cluster headaches. In this article, we will explore the various aspects of cluster headaches and how chiropractic care can provide effective relief. Understanding Cluster Headaches
Symptoms and Diagnosis
Cluster headaches are characterized by sudden, severe pain on one side of the face, often centered around one eye. The pain can be so intense that patients report feeling as if a hot poker has been stabbed into their eye.
According to the International Headache Society, a cluster headache diagnosis requires a minimum of five attacks in a predictable manner (about the same time every day), with severe unilateral periorbital pain peaking in 10-15 minutes and lasting up to 3 hours.
Other symptoms that often accompany cluster headaches include:
- Excessive tearing
- Redness in the affected eye
- Stuffy or runny nasal passage on the affected side of the face
- Sweating and pale skin (pallor) on the face
- Swelling around the affected eye
- Drooping eyelid (ptosis)
If you experience any of these signs and symptoms, seek emergency care immediately.
Causes and Triggers
The exact cause of cluster headaches is unknown. However, an abnormality in the hypothalamus may be responsible due to the clockwork-like nature of the attacks. Food and hormones do not appear to play a role, but with the splitting headaches that can occur with alcohol consumption, cluster headache sufferers tend to avoid alcohol.
Some factors that may affect or trigger cluster headaches include:
- Barometric pressure changes
- Afternoon napping
- In males, parasympathetic activation and sympathetic suppression
- Family history of cluster headaches
Chiropractic Care for Cluster Headaches
How Chiropractic Adjustment Helps
Cluster headaches result from the trigeminal nerve being pinched, compressed, or shifted improperly due to spinal misalignment. As such, chiropractic treatment is ideally suited for treating cluster headaches.
Chiropractic care can help relieve tension in the cervical area caused by stress and provide nutritional counseling. Nutritional intervention has been shown to be effective in reducing cluster headaches and their cycles.
The Chiropractic Approach
Chiropractic care focuses on restoring joint motion and proper nervous system functioning to facilitate optimal body functioning. In the case of cluster headaches, chiropractors specifically target the upper cervical joints (upper neck). The first vertebra in the neck, known as the Atlas (C1), is frequently misaligned (subluxated) when patients have headaches.
When joint motion is restored through chiropractic adjustment, the nervous system can relax and function with greater ease. This allows the cervical spine muscles to decrease in tightness and rigidity, often experienced with cluster headaches.
Each individual’s response to chiropractic care may vary, but many patients find significant relief from their cluster headache symptoms through regular adjustments.
Chiropractic Success Stories
Many individuals who suffer from cluster headaches have found relief through chiropractic care. For example, Dr. Danielle of Advanced Wellness Solutions was involved in a serious car accident while attending the University of South Florida. Her injuries caused trigeminal nerve pain, a condition similar to cluster headaches.
Fortunately, she sought chiropractic treatment from a Palmer College of Chiropractic graduate, who successfully treated her injuries and alleviated her cluster headaches. As a result, she completed her bachelor’s degree and went on to graduate from Palmer College of Chiropractic in Port Orange, Florida.
Additional Treatment Options
Standard Medical Interventions
Standard medical intervention for cluster headaches often includes pharmaceutical treatments such as oxygen, triptans, and local anesthetics. These medications can help relieve the pain but may not address the underlying cause of the headaches.
In addition to chiropractic care, other alternative treatments for cluster headaches include acupuncture, massage therapy, and herbal remedies. While these treatments may provide some relief, they are typically most effective when used in conjunction with chiropractic care.
Lifestyle Changes and Self-Care
Making certain lifestyle changes and practicing self-care can also help manage cluster headache symptoms. These changes may include quitting smoking, avoiding alcohol, and maintaining a regular sleep schedule.
Practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation can also help alleviate stress and tension, which may contribute to cluster headaches.
Due to the intensity of cluster headaches, patients often feel emotionally and physically drained by the time they seek treatment. It is essential to speak with a qualified therapist or counselor to help cope with the emotional toll of these headaches.
Support groups are also available for cluster headache sufferers, providing a safe space to share experiences and learn from others who have faced similar challenges.
Cluster headaches can be an incredibly debilitating condition, but chiropractic care offers a promising solution for those seeking relief. By targeting the cause of cluster headaches through spinal adjustments, chiropractors can help alleviate the pain and discomfort associated with this condition.
If you or a loved one are struggling with cluster headaches, consider scheduling an appointment with a chiropractor to discuss your treatment options and begin the journey towards a pain-free life.