Posted by: Nicole | 2009/06/01

&quot Cluster Headaches " 

I’ ve been " diagnosed"  with cluster headaches by my GP but haven’ t been given any reason why I’ m getting them. They get so bad where I think my head is going to explode, some days I can take up to nearly 10 pain tablets and they do nothing...Iv also got Crohn’ s disease which throws out taking any anti-inflammatory’ s. Is there anything I can take or do because they are really really bad..Do you have any advise??

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageHeadache expert

Dear Nicole,

The term “Cluster Headaches” describes the fact that they come in clusters, and then disappear till the next cluster. It does not give any indication as to why the headaches are happening. With cluster headache as with any other headache, the causes can usually be found, but it is not easy, as there are many structures in the head and neck area that can be involved. The causes of cluster headaches, like other primary headaches can often be identified and treated, often without the use of drugs. Even when drugs are necessary, it is better to use preventive medications than to use “rescue” medication when an attack strikes. To get to the root of the problem, you need what is called a “multidisciplinary assessment”, which should include a neurological examination to rule out any serious underlying condition. There are so many different structures in the head and neck, all of which can be involved in the headache process, that no single specialist can have all the knowledge necessary to make a comprehensive assessment and diagnosis. For instance, a neurologist will examine the brain and nervous system, a physiotherapist will look at the muscles, a dentist will examine the teeth etc. For this reason, the “multidisciplinary assessment” combines and integrates the expertise of different specialists who would normally treat headache patients in isolation, into a single more comprehensive body of knowledge. This enables the different members of the team to provide a co-ordinated treatment plan, so that all the contributing factors are addressed.

This assessment must include a thorough examination of the head and neck muscles to determine the presence of abnormal tension, and of the external carotid vasculature to determine whether there is an arterial element to the pain.

Headache sufferers often have a poor Quality of Life due to the constant pain and associated symptoms. For a free assessment of how your headaches are affecting your Quality of Life, click on

This information has been supplied and checked by the multidisciplinary team of specialists at The Headache Clinic, in association with The International Headache Society and the South African Institute of Headache and Migraine Science. For consultation with these specialists, call The Headache Clinic (Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg) on 0861 678 911.

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

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