Cluster Migraines: 1000 Out Of Ten On The Pain Scale

The technical classification is not cluster migraines... it's cluster headache. (ichd)

This type of headache is not called suicide headache for nothing. It's violent, intensely painful and the symptoms include agitation and self-harm. "One person on average per month, is ending their life due to cluster headaches." [4]

What type of headache can disappear for a few months, or years and then hit hard and fast? This one can.

Cluster Migraines Are Brutal @migrainesavvy

The term cluster headache refers to a type of headache that comes in groups.

You might experience one to three headaches per day over a period of a couple of weeks, up to three months continuously with no break. They may come and go... or they may never go.

A cluster headache is the least common type of all the headaches and is more common in men than women by three to one.

3 Males: 1 Females

There is potential for these headaches to completely disappear or go into remission for months or even years and then start to recur. And then you become engulfed by an intermittent world of intense, unbearable, pain and symptoms... again.

Cluster Migraines

What Do Migraines and Cluster Headaches Have in Common?

There are many experts that believe migraines and cluster headaches have a common cause that begins in the trigeminal nerve which carries the feeling of sensation from the head to the brain.

Migraines usually stem from a chemical reaction causing a nerve storm and then blood vessels to spasm in the head. They typically last from 4 - 72 hours. 

Migraine pain can range anywhere from mild to severe and is typically located on one side of the head, the back of the neck and or around the face and eyes. Symptoms accompanying classic migraine types can include such things as nausea, vomiting; sensitivity to light, sound, or smell; stuffy nose, watery eyes; dizziness and visual disturbances.

Cluster headaches are vascular and appear in cycles. The pain is so severe that they have been called suicide headaches. The pain with cluster headaches is usually on one side of the face and can be accompanied by nasal congestion, watery eyes, and a runny nose.

Cluster headaches normally come on faster and leave quicker than a classical migraine.

The similarities which link the migraine and the cluster headaches, include the one sided pain and the congestion.

Migraines are typically a moderate to severe throbbing quality. They last 4 - 72 hours.

The pain experienced with the cluster headache is usually intense, sharp... and violent. They last 15 minutes - 3 hours. 

What they do not have in common...

What Cluster Headaches Have That Migraines Do Not

  • No light sensitivity
  • Not sensitive to touch
  • VERY agitated
  • Puffy or drooping eyelid*
  • Propensity for self-harm 
  • Suicidal thoughts and violent behavior
  • Facial flushing and sweating*
  • Time span and time occuring **

*These are some of the common autonomic symptoms of cluster headache. Others are: pupil constriction, conjunctival redness, runny nose... on one side of the head.

** They occur at the same time every night, or every day like clock work. They last exactly so many minutes. You can count the minutes they last once you establish your pattern. They are predictable. 

Symptoms like: one sided tearing and swollen eye, and a runny nose can also accompany migraine. The pain can be intense in both migraines and cluster headache.

You Never Get Just One

Cluster Migraines in MenCluster Headache Not Cluster Migraine

If you are having cluster headaches / cluster migraines, then I'm sad to say, you will not have just one attack.

You will have several in a series of headaches and you will have them on a regular basis.

There are some sufferers of cluster headaches that do not have any periods of remission, having a continuous series of these disturbing symptoms and relentless pain .

With cluster migraines you really need to sort out a pain management strategy with your doctor as soon as you can. They might also recommend getting some extra emotional support from a professional pain counselor.

I encourage you to learn new coping skills and find new ways to manage with this chronic condition in your life.

Here are 3 suggestions:

5 Ways To Treat Cluster Migraines

There are medications that can be prescribed for cluster migraines, but they have been limited in their success. Here is a great PDF you can print out about cluster treatment and medications

If you are right in the middle of the headache, one of the best treatments is in the prescribing of pure oxygen for you to breathe. This has shown to be effective approximately 70% of the time. 

If treatment is not successful with oxygen therapy, you can consider having Botox injections and there is a surgery available that will get rid of the nerve itself. Or nerves.

There is risk with the surgery, but some people feel it is worth the risk because of the severity of the pain and the destruction that brings with it.

FDA Approves Vagus Nerve Stimulation Device for Cluster Headache

The gammaCore (electroCore LLC) device marks the first release of a hand-held, neck-applied device for this headache type.
"The FDA release of gammaCore is an important advance in the treatment of the pain associated with cluster headache," Stephen Silberstein, MD, director of the Headache Center at Jefferson University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, said in the company statement.

The device "does not have the side effects or dose limitations of commonly prescribed treatments or the need for invasive implantation procedures, which can be inconvenient, costly, and high-risk," added Dr Silberstein. (3)

So that's: medication, oxygen therapy, Botox, surgery, and the gammaCore device.

There are more suggestions for help in my article - cluster headache symptoms.

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MIGRAINE TYPES  Related Articles

Cluster Migraines References and Important link:
2. The International Classification of Headache Disorders 3rd edition (2016) Available [Online] at:
3. MedScape (Apr. 18, 2017) FDA Approves Vagus Nerve Stimulation Device for Cluster Headache. Available [Online] at:
4. Bruce, Scott (2018) Migraine World Summit. Available [online] at:

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