Alternative treatments for cluster headache?

A recent report investigated complementary and alternative medicine for cluster headache sufferers.  Researchers went to 3 different headache clinics and interviewed 100 patients.  They found that about 29% had tried some kind of alternative treatment.  But was it a help?

You can see the results below.  Only a small group felt that the treatment had been a help.  Just over 1/3 felt that there had been some small benefit, and only 8% thought that alternative therapies had helped a lot.

Google Chart

The researchers of the study (called Use of complementary and alternative medicine by patients with cluster headache: results of a multi-centre headache clinic survey) weren’t very positive about the results, but I think there’s reason to hope.

Remember, cluster headache is still a very poorly studied problem.  With all the alternative treatments available, we still have a long way to go before we really hone in on the best ones.  A visit to any cluster related forum shows that people are trying a very wide variety of complimentary therapies.

There’s nothing wrong with that, but it does show that it will take some time to find which ones tend to work the best.  If 8% are already finding a significant benefit, there’s reason to believe that number will be far higher in 10 years.

Cluster headache patients try therapies such as massage, acupuncture, herbs such as chamomile and valerian and chiropractic treatment.  If you have cluster, what treatments have you tried?  Have they helped?

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8 comments… add one
  • Mary Kay Nov 1, 2008

    I too have found that most alternative therapies are not as effective for cluster as they are for migraine. The only one I think may help would be melatonin which can help with sleep cycles. Clusters are tied to circadian rythyms (sleep, seasons, time of day) but right now noone knows just what is the mechanism.

    Most people have to vary the dose of melatonin between 2mg and 12mg and it is available over the counter.

  • Reeta Luthra Nov 2, 2008

    I’m a psychotherapist and have done some work on cluster headaches using a blend of “talk therapy” and energy methods. The results have been remarkable.

    My work suggests that the cluster headache (and migraine) is a symptom of emotional stress and tension. Identifying and releasing this tension causes the symptom to go away.

    There is more information on my website at: and I’m always happy to answer any questions.

    • Harriet Hopkinson May 1, 2011

      Reeta, please bear in mind that it is illegal to make unfounded medical claims about services or products you offer. There is no scientific evidence for your assertions. I suggest you retract them!

      • lucid Nov 19, 2012

        she has made no claims, she says “my work suggests” – keep an open mind.

  • James Nov 6, 2008

    Thanks Mary Kay! Melatonin has been a help to migraineurs as well (see more about melatonin here).

    Thanks for your comment, Reeta Luthra. There’s no doubt that there are emotional components to migraine and cluster. I would be cautious about suggesting that stress “causes” them. There’s just too much evidence that we’re talking about biological diseases.

    Certainly relaxation and learning to deal with stress can help, but everyone has stress and not everyone has cluster or migraine. We’ll be talking more about this in future days.

  • Patricia Dec 24, 2009

    I have been dealing with cluster headaches for 18 years, and I can tell you that having them as a child had nothing to do with stress or anxiety…in my case it is completely genetic.
    I have found that aromatherapy is very helpful, but only certain smells because things like perfume and cologne can trigger an attack.
    I have also gone to the chiropractor because my headaches radiate down the right side of my neck and after the first visit or so I would get a headache but once everything got back into alignment I started to feel much better!!
    I have tried everything under the sun as far as treatment and prophylaxis for my headaches and nothing seems to work…trial and error is your best friend when you suffer from Cluster Headaches because it is such an “unknown” and “unresearched” disorder.

  • Steve smith Apr 6, 2010

    Well I just want to say, I’ve been having them myself for close to 20yrs now but recently their just getting more frequent, as seems to be the trend. I wouldn’t put it down to stress or anxiety at all as I’m a pretty stress free happy go lucky kind of guy. I meditate often and enjoy life but I can’t place my finger on what the cause is. What I do know is that as far as alternative medicine goes I know one thing that works as well as sumatriptan and tho it’s illegal, magic mushrooms work a treat. Just check on google, Cambridge uni did a study not so long ago and even they said the pain outweighs the risks as the effects are very mild in comparison to LSD (which also works tho I wouldn’t recomend it as it’s very unpredictable) just research it and make your own mind up. At the end of the day I feel it’s justified.

  • Bob Aug 7, 2012

    I was diagnosed with classic cluster headache symptoms about eight years ago. My fathers uncle was a cluster sufferor, he used to use the Cafergot product. This is the prescription pill that worked best for me. Limited dosages did’nt keep up with as many attacks that I had, but worked great at completely eliminating head pain.
    I also learned of a way to keep the cluster headache from ever returning again! I apologize to anyone who frowns on illegal drug use, but I was willing to try anything. By sniffing or smoking crystal-meth, I gained instant relief from an attack and have been Cluster-free for about three years now. Please be careful and never give up!

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