bowel movements cluster headaches? (long)

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Posted by DR ( on December 08, 1999 at 16:12:12:

Hi, everyone!

Nice to find this site for all of us suffering with these %@#*&!@ cluster headaches!

I'm 40, male, but I don't smoke and I don't have a face that looks like an orange peel. Always love it when I run into that "typical clusterhead" description! I've had clusters roughly every year or two year since I was maybe 27 or 28. Almost always in the fall, between Halloween and Christmas, except one cluster in July one year.

Anyway, I posted the following question on MGH's cluster headache forum page last month, but had no responses. I think maybe this site is more active, and would be interested in hearing people's responses.

I'm curious if any other cluster headache suffers have noticed any correlation between bowel movements and their headaches? My cluster headaches are typically in the morning, either immediately upon waking or starting by 10:00 am, and last typically 2 hours. My headaches are always on the right side, red-hot poker behind the eye, intense photophobia, etc., textbook cluster symptoms. Before I knew what I had, I would just "ride out" these headaches in a dark room, trying all sorts of neck/head contortions, hot/cold towels, etc. to get the excruciating pain to stop. One thing I consistently noticed when I would ride the headaches out without any medication was that when the headache would finally stop, it was almost like a light switch being turned off, and very soon afterwards (i.e., just a few minutes), I would have to use the bathroom to defecate. Sometimes going to the bathroom and defecating would stop the headache. It's often seemed to me that it's almost like I have an ulcer in the colon/GI tract somewhere, and as the fecal matter is moving past it and over it, I'm feeling the pain of irritating the ulcer at the back of my eye! Exactly where this ulcer would be I'm not sure, but I would guess at the "final turn" before the large colon is loaded prior to defecation??? I once tried to mention this to a doctor I was seeing for the headaches (the one who told me after nodding his head "Yep, you've got CLUSTER HEADACHES" ... so glad to know it has a NAME!), but he felt it was just a "symptom" of the "parasympathetic storm" being generated by the headache...

Anyway, I've always wondered if any other cluster-headache sufferers have made this observation, or if it's just my imagination???

I'm wondering if some sort of ulceration of the GI-tract could cause the headaches. The 4 to 8 week cluster period could be the time it would take for the body to "make repairs"?

A couple of other observations regarding this. While I've had this latest cluster, I noticed that even using oxygen to abort the headaches, I would have a bowel movement relatively soon after the oxygen had done the job of stopping the headache. Taking the oxygen seemed to cause a feeling of fullness in my bowels, making me wonder if the oxygen was stimulating the motility of the GI tract and helping load up the large colon and/or rectum. Also, the consistency of the fecal matter coming out has not been "normal" during this entire cluster. Last week, the cluster started to break up, and at the end of last week was the first time in 4 weeks that I had a bowel movement on a given day, and had no cluster headache on that day. Also, during the cluster, on the days I didn't have a headache, I also did not have any bowel movements. For me, it seems the correlation is quite high between having a headache, and then soon afterwards having a bowel movement.

I realize this isn't the most pleasant topic of discussion, but it's the most strikingly consistent thing I've noticed about my headaches.

Anyway, hope some of you will respond to this...

good luck, everyone!


P.S. For this cluster, time I've tried pure OXYGEN therapy for the first time, and it's been amazing to me how well it's worked. (In the past, I have used Cafergot, which can abort the headache if take RIGHT AWAY, or at least reduces the pain for the 2 hour headache, but I still know I'm having it, and feel exhausted by the time the meds clear my system). After a few minutes of aggressive OXYGEN inhalation the pain is greatly reduced, and 20 min of continuous deep breathing usually completely stops the headache. It's come back again after the oxygen two times, but usually only if I lay down and try to sleep again, or if I take a hot shower. Anyway I'd highly recommend it for anyone who hasn't tried it before. I have to admit, I've started the oxygen right at the start of the headaches, so maybe it's most effective as an abortive agent at that time. But once it stops, I feel great and have no medications circulating in my bloodstream...

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