Hi everyone, at this point it's been months since I've had a cluster headache, with the exception being a mild headache that appears whenever I think about headaches. Based on what I now know about cluster headaches I don't find that surprising at all and I consider myself to be cured. The important part of being cured is that I no longer wake up in the middle of the night with a stabbing pain behind my right eye, and I no longer walk around with a throbbing pain in the middle of the right side of my head. I suspect that the memory of the headache will be there for some time, with the effect that thinking about the headache I used to have will still trigger a mild form of what it used to be. In fact, writing this article right now is triggering a mild form of the old headache. But I feel I have valuable information to share and I hope that someone out there finds what I have to say useful. If so, then any little headache I put up with while I write this is worth it.
Here's the background: More than 3 years ago, immediately following intense physical activity I felt something that first felt like a small pinprick behind my right eye. This pinprick immediately seemed to spread out and I had my first cluster headache. At the time I didn't know what a cluster headache was, but for me it meant a stabbing feeling behind my right eye. When this would happen my right eye would become dry and bloodshot. I would also have a lot of difficulty concentrating. The worst part of it all was the fear that something was seriously wrong, in addition to the obvious inconvenience of living with a constant headache.
From that moment on, until a few months ago, I had a more or less constant headache behind my right eye. It wouldn't move around my head, it would only increase or decrease in intensity. Most of the time it was about a 2 out of 10 on the pain scale, but occasionally it would rise all the way up to an 8 or a 9. Unfortunately the worst pain would often be at night, when I would first become aware of the headache in my dreams and wake up to a terrible pain in my head.
After I had had the headache for about 2 months, I saw a neurologist. One MRI and $4000 later, I still had no idea why I had a headache. All the neurologist could say to me was that it seemed to be some sort of migraine and I could expect normal life expectancy. I saw another doctor about it and the only help he offered was prescription pain killers. I knew there had to be another way so I continued to look around.
I did a lot of research and read a fair number of books including Paul Bacho's "How to Get Permanent Relief from Chronic Tension Headaches" and Jay S. Cohen's "The Magnesium Solution for Migraine Headaches." I also made some accidental discoveries while working with massage therapists. Here is what I discovered:
MAIN POINT: My cluster headaches were caused by chronic tightness in my right SCM muscle and in my right temporalis muscle.
Many of the books and articles I read hinted at this fact, but what really sealed it for me was the realization that by pushing on two spots, one on the base of my skull and the other on my right temple, I could cause the headache to get MUCH worse immediately. If you have a chronic headache I highly recommend fishing around both of these areas and determining if there are any such spots on your own head. In the case of the base of my skull I have to reach up under my skull to find the spot, but it is there.
Okay, so that was a major realization, but there still remained the question of how I could get those muscles to relax. Obviously massage helped but usually only temporarily. More research regarding this topic led me to a second realization:
SECOND POINT: If someone has a chronic condition, it is for lifestyle reasons. Therefore if someone wants real long term relief that person must change their lifestyle.
This realization was gradually made as I worked through other seemingly unrelated problems, such as chronic fatigue, heartburn/acid reflux and what one doctor I visited called "pre-MS" symptoms. I have made huge progress on all of these fronts, but since this article is about headaches I will save those topics for another day. Based on my experience, here are what I consider to be the most important things one can do physically in order to make healing possible. Some of what follows is redundant, as many of the items work together:
1) Establish healthy sleep habits:
I now go to bed by around 9pm and get up between 4:00am and 5:00am. One year ago I would have thought it would be impossible for me to function on such a schedule. I would never have thought I could actually get up that early. And even if I did get into bed by 9pm, I would never have fallen asleep. But I have been able to change that by:
a) Giving up coffee and alcohol altogether.
b) Not watching TV or using the internet after work.
c) Eating dinner as early as possible.
d) Drinking a tea of valerian, chamomile and catnip after dinner to help me feel sleepy.
e) Going on an hour long walk after dinner every night.
f) Reading in bed until I'm falling asleep.
g) Using meridan therapy (see Gloria Arenson's book "Five Simple Steps to Emotional Healing") in bed if I can't sleep.
h) Using a biobrite alarm clock (see biobrite.com) to take the sting out of waking up.
I have found it very helpful to avoid looking at the time as much as possible in the evenings. And I no longer need the valerian blend tea now that I'm in healthy habits. Pretty much I come home from work, have dinner, go for my walk and go to bed. Making this change took some willpower and required giving up dancing, which was historically very important to me, but I decided that my health was the most important thing to me and that I was willing to do whatever it took to heal.
2) No TV at all:
Watching television is much more stressful than people who are used to it realize. In addition, the number of unhealthy images and ideas that are pumped into the head of someone who watches television for even a short amount of time is amazing. Finally, there is the issue of eye strain, which is a big deal for someone with chronic headaches.
3) No processed food, especially no artificial sweeteners:
Processed food is rarely, if ever, created with any thought as to the digestibility of the end product, meaning that the so-called food is going to strain your body without nourishing it. On top of that most processed food contains some form of MSG, which is generally terrible for someone with headaches. And artificial sweeteners all seem to poison the entire nervous system in some way or another. Finally, I recommend that you switch to an all organic diet, in whatever form you feel will work for you.
4) Walk for an hour every day:
A lot of getting rid of my headache came down to relaxing. My daily walks are very relaxing, and my girlfriend and I often don't even talk on them. We just walk and take them in. In addition, walking helps to circulate the lymph, which aids in detoxing the body. Which leads us to my next point.
5) Systematically clean the various organs of your body:
Two big components of this are Liver Flushing and colon cleansing. I do a liver flush, following Andreas Moritz 's book, "The Live and Gallbladder Miracle Cleanse" every 4 weeks or so, depending on my schedule. I also have colonic hydrotherapy at least twice a month and I do an enema of some sort every weekend. Liver cleansing is important because the liver oversees most of the detoxing in the body, while colon cleansing is important because many toxins are eliminated through the stool and many toxins build up in the colon. In addition, I use the Liver Flushes as landmarks in between which I am systematically cleaning myself in different ways. For instance one month I did a kidney cleanse while another month I did a parasite cleanse. Next month I will be doing a yeast cleanse.
Okay, those are what I consider to be the top 5 things that someone can do for their health generally. I actually think that those 5 things will improve any chronic health problem, not just chronic headaches. As far as eliminating chronic headaches, I also recommend:
1) Regular clinical massage:
If you can find someone in your area who can work on your SCM muscle you will likely notice a large reduction in cluster or tension headaches.
2) Chiropractic care:
In my case my atlas bone was also misaligned. This was probably a result of years of tension from one side of my neck. My personal opinion of chiropractic care is that it can be very helpful but you need to make other lifestyle changes to help yourself hold the adjustments on a more long term basis.
3) The 5 Tibetans daily exercises:
I learned these exercises from the book, "Ancient Secret of the Fountain of Youth" by Peter Kelder. The exercises are all essentially spine lengthening and strengthening exercises and I think that if you have tight muscles in your neck that are contributing to your headache that these exercises will help you.
All right, that's the end of my list. I've done a lot of other things like Iodine supplementation that have also been helpful but one of my goals in creating this list was to keep it short. There is also the huge topic regarding how all physical problems are really just manifestations of psychological and spiritual problems, but I am just learning about that myself at this point so I have omitted that for now. As you progress in your own healing I'm sure you will find your own way of taking care of yourself. Hopefully my experience will be of some value. If anyone has any questions or wants to know what my other experiences have been I'll be happy to share. Thanks and talk soon,