Cluster Headache Therapy
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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 them entirely.

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 pain relief.
  • 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.

Interventional Treatments

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.