Surviving a Cluster Headache

Headache. It hurts right here.

Cluster headaches are a type of headache that’s characterized by an intense amount of pain centered on one side of the head. How intense? Well, some scientists and doctors have described the pain associated with cluster headaches as “The most intense pain that a human being can endure.” Many women who suffer from this debilitating condition claim that the pain is worse than that of childbirth.

This type of headache is somewhat rare, affecting only 0.1 percent of the population. Although no one knows why some people get cluster headaches and other’s don’t, it is known that they affect men more than women at a rate of ten to one.


Cluster headaches are known as “alarm clock headaches,” because they tend to reappear at the same time of day, no matter how long they’ve remained dormant. They usually follow the changes of daylight savings time, which leads researchers to believe that they may be related to the brain’s circadian rhythm.

Additionally, cluster headaches are referred to as “suicide headaches.” This tragic nickname comes from the tendency of some sufferers to take their own lives. In particular, the 10 to 15 percent of chronic cluster headache sufferers who experience repeated headaches every single day over a period of years may find themselves feeling as if there’s no way out from the suffering. Tragically, many of those who cope with chronic cluster headaches take their lives rather than continue living with the pain.


Cluster headaches typically strike suddenly and with no warning, although a few patients claim to have an aura similar to that felt like migraine sufferers before an attack. The pain is constant, piercing and located around an eye. The pain then spreads outward, usually covering one side of the head.

The length of time from initial pain to a full-on attack is about 15 minutes. During this time, migraine sufferers may begin to exhibit the following symptoms:


  • Droopy or swollen eyelid
  • Sensitivity to light or sound
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Restlessness
  • Watery eyes
  • Sweating
  • Nausea

Chiropractic Care

If you or someone you know suffers from cluster headaches, chiropractic care may be able to help. Your Doctor of Chiropractic can help by performing therapeutic adjustments to help relieve the stress on your system and improve the function of the spine. Furthermore, your chiropractic team can offer advice on nutrition which may help reduce the amount of cluster headaches that you’re suffering. Finally, your chiropractor can work with you to discover whether posture, ergonomics, exercise, or relaxation techniques can help alleviate the pain.

Your chiropractic team is able to help their patients overcome a variety of pain, including headaches. They understand how problems in the spine can trigger difficulties in other parts of the body and they know how to take the proper steps to relieve those difficulties.  


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Photo credit: Headache. It hurts right here. by PerfectanceHeadache by ehavirUsed under a Creative Commons license.


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