Not all chronic headaches are migraine headaches– many types of headaches require special care beyond Excedrin for migraine headaches. With cluster headaches, specific treatment is required in order to avoid suffering rebound headaches.
Even if you suspect your headaches are not symptoms of migraines, it is still crucial to see a doctor before attempting to treat your head pain. Taking the wrong type of pain medication could make your headache symptoms worse.
Parts 1 and 2 dealt with migraine headaches and other headache types, including sinus headaches, and tension headaches. Part 3 addresses cluster headaches and rebound headaches, including symptoms and treatment.
Cluster headaches are recurring headaches that come in a set, or “cluster.” Cluster headache periods may be sporadic- you might go weeks, months, or even years without suffering even one episode of cluster headaches. When they do strike, cluster headaches are excruciatingly painful and disabling. Cluster headache patients often describe them as “the worst headaches of their life.” One cluster headache phase can last for approximately one month.
Symptoms of cluster headaches are:
- Sharp, burning pain on one side of the head
- Pain that emanates from the temple or eye region on either side of the head
- Pain that strikes suddenly and intensifies quickly in a few minutes’ time
- Pain that happens at a consistent time of day
- Puffy, reddened watery eyes
- Droopy, sagging eyelid
- Nasal congestion
Treatments for cluster headaches are:
- Oxygen inhalation therapy
- Triptan medications
- Ergotamine preparations
- Preventative medications include anti-seizure drugs, corticosteroids (short-term), verapamil, and lithium.
If your first reaction to headache symptoms is to reach for a bottle of OTC analgesic pain relievers, then you increase your chances of becoming addicted and experiencing rebound headaches. Particularly at risk are headache sufferers who take more pills than recommended on the package label or by their physician. You might feel temporary pain relief, but the withdrawal symptoms you experience later will include recurring headache pain, creating a cycle of addiction that is difficult to break. Prolonged usage of analgesic pain relievers causes a neurological malfunction that interrupts pain signals in the brain.
Medications that cause rebound headaches are:
- Sinus medicine
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs)
- Sleeping pills
- Prescription narcotics
- OTC pain relievers that contain caffeine
- Ergotamine medications
- Triptan medications for migraines, if taken more than twice per week
Treatments for rebound headaches include:
- Quitting “cold turkey”
- Weaning off medication through supervised detoxification in a hospital setting
- For prevention of rebound headache, heeding package labels on medications, limiting OTC pain relievers to the smallest possible dose, and no more than twice in one week, unless advised otherwise by your physician
Read more about different types of headaches:
Migraines and other Types of Headaches- How many are there? Part 1
Migraines and other Types of Headaches- How many are there? Part 2
Is it a Cluster Headache or a Migraine?
Are You on the Rebound with Your Headache?
Rebound Headaches, Anyone?
Is It a Cluster Headache and What Can Ease the Pain? – Headaches and Migraines – Health.com
Medicines for Cluster Headaches- Health.com
Rebound Headaches- Cleveland Clinic
Image credits, from top:
ToastyKen, aerodesign.pl, Maggie Smith