Oxygen therapy to stop cluster and migraine pain

Relieving the pain of cluster or migraine using oxygen is not a new idea.  But there are various kinds of oxygen therapy, and we need a better understanding of just how well it works, what type of therapy works best, and whether or not this may be a practical treatment.

Michael Bennett and his team set out to review the studies that have been done on two different types of oxygen therapy.  They discovered that there may indeed be some benefits.

Oxygen therapy

The two types of therapy we’re talking about are hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) and normobaric oxygen therapy (NBOT).  The latter involves breathing pure oxygen at normal pressure, and the former ("hyper") breathing pure oxygen at a higher pressure.  HBOT therapy requires putting the patient in a specially designed chamber.

So the researchers pulled together 9 small studies that included a total of 201 people.

The reviewers didn’t find the evidence very strong, but there does seem to be some evidence that HBOT may help people with migraine and possibly cluster during the attack, and NBOT may help people with cluster.  From these studies there isn’t any evidence of relief from future attacks.

In the end, Bennett says,"We believe that hyperbaric oxygen is also a reasonable measure for migraineurs who have not responded to other measures to treat an acute attack.  However, the poor availability of hyperbaric chambers makes this an option only in a minority of health facilities."

So at this point it’s the practicality that’s the problem.  Most of us don’t have a HBOT chamber around the corner that we can hop into when we start into a migraine attack.

You can read the details in the official review: Normobaric and hyperbaric oxygen therapy for migraine and cluster headache

Have you ever tried any kind of oxygen therapy?  How did it work for you?  Leave a comment!

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7 comments… add one

  • Victoria Jul 17, 2008

    While recovering in hospital after surgery a few years ago, I developed a bad headache (probably migraine). The nurse on duty gave me oxygen and my migraine disappeared almost immediately–it was incredible. I mentioned this to my neurologist and she said that oxygen is usually used to treat cluster headaches. Ever since this happened, I’ve been kind of surprised that oxygen isn’t offered as a migraine treatment.

  • Mike Sep 22, 2008

    I have been asking to try oxygen for years and none of my Neurologists would entertain the idea on a short term basis. My migraines are most predominately dictated by smell. Bad smells (heavy perfume, car exhaust, hot muggy air etc,) make or even trigger a migraine. I also can tell if an attack is coming as my sense of smell is greatly enhanced. I start asking people if they smell the same thing I am experiencing and they look at me like I am out of it. I used to work at a nylon plant where they blanketed the polymer with CO to purge the residual monomer. You cannot smell CO but I could always tell with some certainty when someone would leave the visual port hole open and some CO was in the air. I hope they will do more testing.

  • Chris Sep 22, 2008

    It took a couple years but finally my doctor brought up the subject of oxygen for my cluster headaches. Now I can’t see living with out it. If you suffer cluster headaches you must try it, demand it. I primarily get them in my sleep (not exclusively), sometimes four a night. At least I can manage to get some sleep with the oxygen. They only last maybe 10 to 15 minutes verses an hour or two. I have a prescription for it which totally covered by insurance. They re-up the tanks as needed. My first try at it they gave me the little nose clip to deliver it, then they realized they should have given me the mask. Plus, the first gauge I got only went to #10 which isn’t enough, the one I have now does 15. I almost wish It had #20 on it. The doctor probably wouldn’t recomend it but, I ditched the mask a long time ago and just huff from the tube. I’ve suffered for more than 10 years with cluster headaches, I know why they dub them “suicide migraines”, they are unbearably painful. Demand to try it!! It’s helped me cope like nothing yet. I can only hope to help someone dealing with the same pains I’m dealing with. Keep talking cluster patients, we’re the minority (less research dollars/profits), we need to figure it out. Good luck out there.

  • James Sep 23, 2008

    Thanks, Chris! It’s good to hear from someone who has tried it. I still can’t believe it took your doctor two years to recommend it! Thanks for adding your voice to the discussion.

  • James Sep 23, 2008

    And thanks, Victoria and Mike for your comments. Mike, I get the same “super-sensitive” nose as you do. It can drive you crazy!

    Oxygen is sometimes used for migraine. I hope more research will be done.

  • Mathew Mar 24, 2010

    Helllo fellow sufferers, I am 47 t/o and I have suffered with chronic cluster for 30 years now (ouch) I tried oxygen 25 years ago and what a difference it made. After moving from Fla. to Ohio I could not get a doctor to give me a script for it until this past week , WOW life is good now. The attacks last only 10 to 20 minutes a night compared to 60 to 80 minutes. and just a note for you people out there, try ice in a sock on your head (it does help) with the oxygen.
    I wish there was a way to get the world to understand our pain.

  • luis Apr 6, 2010

    Hey guys (HELP) im a 16 going to 17 years old. I get these HARD headache called migraine! its really hard for me because im on football & track, and sometimes i get those MIGRAINES and i cant even play!! not even see!! i went to the Drs. and i told him that the migraine started with a little dot blocking my sight, then getting bigger and bigger, then it fades out and thats when the PAIN comes! i’ve been seeing ur comments and i’ve seen that you all guys have been feeling better! and i heard something about oxygen? but i don’t understand? please help me. these headaches are killing me!! i really really need help.

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