Headache (Cluster)

Cluster headaches are well-managed using naturopathic medicine.

Cluster headaches are amongst the most painful types of headache, and occur in cyclical “clusters” lasting from weeks to months, that usually recur one to two times yearly.

The cause of cluster headaches is not known, but may be related to the function of the brain’s “biological clock”. Cluster headaches may be triggered or aggravated by use of nitroglycerin (in treatment of heart disease) or alcohol.

Although intensely painful, cluster headaches are not life threatening.

Seek professional healthcare if your headaches affect your quality of life, or if the pattern of your headaches changes.

Seek emergency medical care if your headache:

  • Is sudden and severe
  • Accompanies a fever, stiff neck, rash, confusion, seizure, double vision, weakness, numbness or difficulty speaking
  • Follows a head injury
  • Gets worse despite rest and pain medication
  • If you have never had a cluster headache in the past

Symptoms of Cluster Headaches

Possible symptoms of cluster headaches include:

  • Daily headaches; often occurring at the same time of day; for periods of 6 to 12 weeks
  • Sudden onset
  • Pain affecting one side of your head, possibly radiating to other areas of your face, head, neck and shoulders
  • Pain of a sharp, penetrating or burning quality
  • Severe pain intensity
  • Paleness and sweating of your face
  • Eyelid drooping
  • Redness and swelling of the eye on the affected side
  • Pupil constriction of the affected side
  • Possibly some migraine headache-like symptoms (e.g., aura, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound)
  • Restlessness

Treatment of Cluster Headaches at Toronto Centre for Naturopathic Medicine

At Toronto Centre for Naturopathic Medicine, the goal of cluster headache treatment is significant pain reduction during pain episodes and decrease in frequency of headache clusters.

Conventional treatment for cluster headaches may include a variety of medications, including triptans, corticosteroids, ergotamine, calcium channel blockers, lithium carbonate, anti-seizure medications; or injectable synthetic hormones; or anesthetics. These treatments may have short- or long-term side effects.

For this reason, you may choose to try natural treatment to possibly avoid use of conventional medications, or together with conventional medications in order to decrease dosages of conventional medications required to manage your cluster headache symptoms.

Naturopathic treatment of any chronic health concern must be recognized as a process that involves:

  • Identifying specific treatment goals
  • Development by your naturopathic doctor, of a thorough understanding of all factors affecting your health, including physical, psychological, emotional and lifestyle factors
  • Development of a comprehensive treatment plan
  • Implementation and maintenance of that plan through periodic monitoring and adjustment

At Toronto Centre for Naturopathic Medicine, a typical approach to treating cluster headaches may be to:

Where appropriate, a number of therapeutic options are available, to be used alone, or more often in a complementary fashion, including:

Where appropriate, a number of therapeutic options are available, to be used alone, or more often in a complementary fashion, including:

Treatments provided by naturopathic doctors and registered massage therapists are covered by most extended healthcare plans.


Cluster headache [Internet]. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; [cited 2009 Feb 18]. Available from: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/cluster-headache/DS00487.

Cluster headache [Internet]. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; [cited 2015 Mar 28]. Available from: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cluster-headache/basics/symptoms/con-20031706.


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