Cluster headaches are a severe type of headache.
People with cluster headaches can experience attacks in which several severe headaches occur over the course of 24 hours. They most often occur at night.
Daily cluster headache attacks can continue to happen for weeks or months, after which a period of remission can occur. This remission period can last for months or even years.
Cluster headaches tend to differ vastly from other types of headaches. They can be very severe and often require medical management. Though they can be very painful, cluster headaches aren’t dangerous.
While cluster headaches are most often managed with medications and other medical interventions, there may be some things you can also do at home to help ease or prevent symptoms. Keep reading to find out more.
Currently, there are few home remedies that are effective and no known cures.
There’s some limited scientific information on home remedies for cluster headaches that might be helpful, but they’re not proven with research.
Below, we’ll explore some of the information that’s currently available but not proven.
Melatonin supplements at doses between 10 and 25 milligrams may help to prevent cluster headaches when taken before bedtime. However, melatonin treatment may be less effective in people with chronic cluster headaches.
Topical capsaicin cream can be purchased over the counter and may be used to help manage cluster headaches. This analgesic can be gently applied to the inside of your nose using a cotton swab.
Small older studies indicated that capsaicin cream reduced cluster headache severity.
Deep breathing exercises
While there’s limited research into deep breathing techniques and cluster headaches, it may help to utilize them in conjunction with your medications during an attack.
However, additional research into magnesium for cluster headaches is limited.
If you’re considering magnesium supplementation, or any supplementation, be sure to speak to your doctor first.
Kudzu extract is a botanical supplement that comes from the kudzu vine. Some anecdotal evidence suggests that kudzu may help with cluster headaches.
A small study published in 2009 identified 16 participants who used kudzu extract for cluster headaches.
While many reported decreased intensity or frequency of attacks, more rigorous studies are needed to determine the actual efficacy of kudzu extract.
Common cluster headache symptoms include:
- severe headache pain that sets in behind your eye or on one side of your face
- headache that begins without any warning, often waking you in the night
- headaches that start at the same time each day or the same time every year
- several severe headaches that last between 15 minutes to 3 hours, within a 24-hour period
- eye redness and tearing on the side of your face where your headache pain originated
- runny or stuffy nose on the affected side
- swelling of the eyes or face
- drooping eyelid or constricted pupil on the side where you have pain
- numbness or tingling on one side of your face or in your arms or fingers
- feeling restless or agitated
Researchers are still working to understand what causes cluster headaches. Many different theories continue to be put forward and tested.
Most likely, cluster headaches are connected to activity in your hypothalamus.
Located at the base of your brain, the hypothalamus contains reflex pathways that control pain in your face and behind your eyes.
When this nerve pathway is activated, it triggers sensations of:
- intense pain
This same group of nerves can also stimulate eye tearing and redness.
While there’s no cure for cluster headaches, making certain lifestyle changes may help you reduce the frequency of headaches.
Consistent sleep schedule
Smokers tend to have cluster headaches more often compared with nonsmokers.
While quitting smoking might not cause cluster headaches to stop completely, it may help improve your body’s sleep patterns and nerve responses.
Quitting smoking may be difficult, but it’s possible. Speak to a doctor about finding a personalized smoking cessation program.
While you’re experiencing cluster headaches, consuming alcohol may trigger a headache to come on. Consider limiting your alcohol intake to prevent this from occurring.
Getting daily exercise
Daily cardiovascular exercise may improve circulation to your brain, reduce stress, and help you sleep better.
If you have cluster headaches, the pain alone is reason to seek medical help.
Talk to your doctor about your symptoms and treatment options. They can recommend a treatment plan that’s right for you.
Additionally, speak with your doctor if you’re considering using herbs or supplements. They can tell you about any side effects or interference with medications or other treatments.
Medical treatments commonly prescribed for cluster headaches include:
Cluster headaches are extremely painful, and they tend to reoccur. These headaches don’t last forever, and symptoms usually disappear within a few days.
While medications and other medical treatments are most often used to treat and prevent cluster headaches, there are things that you can try at home in conjunction with your doctor-prescribed treatments.
Remember to always talk to your doctor first before trying any home remedies.