Cluster headaches primarily affect men between twenty and forty years old. They come on suddenly and are severe, and occur for a series of days, weeks, or months and then disappear. They may recur seasonally or randomly.
Symptoms of Cluster Headaches
Onset occurs most frequently within two to three hours of falling asleep, during a REM phase of sleep, when dreaming occurs. The pain is typically steady and feels like a sharp, burning, or boring pain on one side of the head or in and around one eye, but it can involve a whole side of the face from the neck to the temples. The pain quickly gets worse, peaking within five to ten minutes, with the peak pain lasting from thirty minutes to two hours. It may be accompanied by a red, flushed face. A runny nose, nasal congestion, swelling under or around the eye, or a red or teary eye with a small pupil may occur, usually on the same side as the headache.
Causes and Triggers of Cluster Headaches
Alcohol, tobacco, and drugs that dilate or constrict blood vessels are known to trigger cluster headaches, suggesting that changes in the walls of blood vessels of the head and/or around the eye area may be at least partially responsible. This may be due to a sudden release of histamine or serotonin by body tissues (histamine is released in response to allergies, but there may be other triggers as well). Note that the triggers and causes of cluster headaches are the same as some of the triggers and causes of migraines, and of trigger points. Oxygen deprivation of muscles cells plays a role in causing cluster headaches, and it also activates trigger points. Though the role of trigger points in activating and perpetuating cluster headaches has not yet been studied, treating trigger points and eliminating perpetuating factors will likely help resolve these type of headaches.
Great News: Treating Trigger Points Can Help!
Indy Myopain and other studies have shown that people who have headaches are almost twice as likely as healthy control subjects to have postural abnormalities, including head-forward posture, and to have trigger points in the back of the neck, particularly the suboccipital muscles. Interestingly, people with migraines were shown to have the same prevalence of postural abnormalities and number and location of trigger points as people with tension headaches, even when they tend to have one-sided migraines (Marcus et al. 1999).
People who suffer from both migraines and tension-type headaches are far more likely to have a greater number of active trigger points (Marcus et al. 1999). The greater the number of active trigger points, the more frequent and severe the headaches. With one-sided headaches, a greater number of active trigger points are located on the same side as the headache. Trigger points will be more tender during a headache and will probably be more tender just prior to and immediately after the headache.
This means that the probability of trigger points being part or all of the problem in the majority of headaches is likely to be high, and there are estimates that the majority of headaches are due at least in part to trigger points (Simons, Travell, and Simons 1999). So the great news is that you can probably relieve much or all of your headache pain with a combination of trigger point self-treatments [Chapters 10-18] and identifying and eliminating all the perpetuating factors [Part II] to the extent possible.
Treating Headaches with Trigger Point Therapy
If you have headaches, you are likely to have trigger points in your neck, back, leg, arm and head muscles that, when pressed, will refer pain to the areas where you normally feel your headaches... In all likelihood, trigger points in more than one muscle of the neck and head are causing overlapping referral patterns, so it is important to locate all of the trigger points involved.
Indy Myopain Relief Center believes it is important to treat trigger points when you don’t have a headache, thus preventing their re-occurrence. We really want to see you when you have a headaches so that we can find the cause and eliminate it in the first visit.