Cluster Headache Therapy
Colorado Treatment for Cluster Headaches
Cluster headache is a painful affliction, which is characterized by 30-90
minute periods of severe pain localized to the check, temple, eye, or
forehead region. Around half of cluster headache patients report tenderness
at the base of the neck and skull on the same side as the pain. The headaches
occur in repeatedly over the course of weeks or months before spontaneously stopping.
No one knows how long a cluster headache stretch will last, and for many
patients they occur around the same time each year. At Interventional
Headache Center of Colorado, we offer evidence-based treatments and therapies
for cluster headaches to help you reduce the rate of attacks or eliminate
Abortive & Preventative Treatments
Cluster Headache Therapy is classified by two general approaches: abortive
for symptomatic headaches and preventive or prophylactic. Abortive treatments
are used to reduce the severity of a headache attack while prophylactic
methods are aimed at reducing the intensity and frequency of headaches.
Abortive headache treatments:
Oxygen – Just 20 minutes with an oxygen mask can help to relieve pain from
cluster headaches. This is one of the most effective treatments for immediate
5-hydroxytrytamine-1 (5-HT) receptor agonists – You may know these by another name, “triptans.” These
are a category of medications that have proven very effective in relieving
pain from migraines and cluster headaches.
Opiates – Oral opiates are helpful for aborting cluster headaches, but are
used cautiously due to addiction potential. You should only receive this
treatment in a supervised setting.
Prophylactic (preventive) treatments:
Calcium channel blockers – These agents are the best agents for cluster headache prevention.
Commonly prescribed drugs include verapamil, diltiazem, and nimodipine.
Lithium – Though responses in patients vary, lithium is still considered
first-line for prophylactic treatment and is one of the most common medications
prescribed for chronic cluster headaches.
Anticonvulsants – The exact reason why anticonvulsant medications work to prevent
headaches is unknown, but have proven to be an effective suppressor of
migraines and cluster headaches.
In severe cluster headache cases where other treatments have failed, your
doctor may discuss interventional options with you. These are minimally
invasive surgical procedures that have proven successful for stubborn
cluster headaches, including refractory cluster headaches.
Interventional therapies include:
Percutaneous radiofrequency ablation – This procedure is conducted using x-ray guidance to assure correct
needle placement. The nerves that supply certain pain signals to the head
are destroyed using radiofrequency energy.
Botulinum toxin type A injections – These injections are given to patients to prevent cluster headaches.
This procedure involves using a small needle to inject a few units of
Botox around the forehead and eyes.
Greater occipital nerve block – This is a simple procedure done in the physician’s office.
The doctor injects the back of the scalp with an anesthetic, with or without
a steroidal agent.
Deep brain stimulation – This involves implantation of stimulating electrodes under fluoroscopic
guidance into the posterior region of the hypothalamus. This is a “last
resort” treatment for extremely severe headaches.
If you would like to learn more about Cluster Headache Therapy or schedule
an appointment, call us at 970-221-9451.