Why Physical Activity Can Relieve the Pain of Cluster Headaches
When many people consider ways to soothe a headache, they often think about reducing physical activity and even lying down to rest. This is a common and recommended response for tension headaches and migraines, for example.
However, cluster headaches are unique and often provoke a much different response in people who are experiencing them. In fact, it is very common for cluster headache patients to be unable to stay still while they are having the pain.
This article will explore the types of physical activity common among cluster headache sufferers and why those activities seem to bring at least a little temporary relief.
Common Activities During a Cluster Headache Episode
When a person is having an acute cluster headache attack, it is very common to pace back and forth through the room. It seems that lying down actually increases the amount of pain being felt and that moving around keeps it at bay a little better. Even if one is not actually moving, simply standing or sitting down usually feels more comfortable to a cluster headache sufferer than lying down during an episode.
However, some of the activities that these individuals engage in during an attack are far more bizarre and even disturbing to watch. These activities include rocking from side to side, hitting their heads with their fists, and hitting their heads against a wall. All of these behaviors are very common among cluster headache sufferers and even referenced in the International Classification of Headache Disorders published by the International Headache Society.
Why Physical Activity Brings Relief
Unlike other types of headaches, cluster headaches cause pain that makes an individual restless and inclined to move around. The exact cause of these headaches is still unknown; however, many different triggers exist that can bring them on. Common triggers are alcohol, histamine, and nitroglycerin. The pain can be felt maximal orbitally, supraorbitally, temporally, or in any combination of these pain zones.
Cluster headaches take a lot of out of a person and prohibit them from concentrating on anything besides the pain. It is possible that moving around helps to distract oneself from the extreme agitation or changes in heart rate and blood pressure being felt during a cluster attack. Unfortunately, there is no definitive research that proves why all of the clinical occurrences of cluster headaches happen. Therefore, friends and family members of cluster headache patients should be prepared for these types of behaviors and steer their loved one towards non-destructive methods of movement as much as possible.
Learning to Manage the Symptoms of Cluster Headaches
Since there is currently no long-term cure for cluster headaches, people who are prone to getting them must learn effective ways to manage their attacks. Strenuous exercise has been known trigger cluster headache attacks; however, moderate exercise on a regular basis may help to prevent future attacks from happening.
Individuals who suffer from cluster headaches often feel alone in their struggle with the disease, so it may help to join a support group, either in-person or online. It is just as important to manage the anger and depression that frequently accompanies cluster headaches as much as the physical pain so that the condition doesn’t take control over one’s life.
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