Posted by Lynn E. Davidson (22.214.171.124) on June 24, 2001 at 22:21:03:
Please read this message through. The solution I found probably saved my life. I have not visited this site before because I have been in remission for almost three years and frankly, I thought they had finally left me. I am almost sixty and have been plagued by cluster headaches for just short of thirty years. Please allow me to qualify myself, for I wish to share with you a method I have used for the past 20 or so years to abort the headaches with 100% success. The method does not make one immune to attack, but it successfully aborts each attack which for me has reduced the Cluster headache syndrome from a life-threatening disease to a major aggravation with which I can successfully live.
I think it was in Spring of 1972 that I had my first attack. Every day at 11:00 a.m. I would be literally attacked by what I called the Indian with the tomahawk. I first blamed them on sinus, because I lived in Virginia at the time, and the pollen count was out of sight. My first doctor=s visit netted me a prescription for Sansert and another for Fiorinol (sp?) neither of which did any good at all. The Sansert side affects scared me so I dropped that treatment.
At that time the syndrome was sometimes called Horton=s Headaches because a doctor named Horton had come up with the idea that the headaches were caused by and allergic reaction to histamine which the body produces. In short, we are allergic to ourselves. He recommended a desensitization program in which one gave oneself shots three times a day of increasing doses of histamine, the danger being, of course, overdosing and causing a headache of major proportions, which I seemed to be able to do with devastating frequency. The solution to that was to give oneself a shot of epinefrin (sp?), a manufactured form of adrenalin. This was really fun, trying to shoot up with a heart-pounding compound during the height of cranial tomahawk attack! This whole process turned in to a catastrophic failure and I soon abandoned it.
My cluster attacks became chronic and I was soon visited by anywhere from one to eight or nine attacks a day. I would get brief respites of one or two days occasionally, but the episodes would last eight or nine months and then would go away for maybe a month and then return full time, full blast. I went to another doctor who ran a number of tests including a brain scan and he concluded that I did indeed have cluster headaches and there was nothing he could do. Somewhere I heard that breathing pure oxygen would help. I bought a bottle of hospital oxygen and carried it wherever I went. It did nothing.
During this time I was a heavy drinker and smoker. I drank hard during headaches but even the numbing effects of alcohol had no effect on the pain. The headaches lasted any where from 45 minutes to 2 hours. I became afraid to go anywhere or commit to anything. At the onset of a headache I would try to hide, lie down on the floor or ground and writhe about in such excruciating pain that I began to wonder whether the quality of my life was worth trying to continue. The chronic nature of the headaches continued for about 12 to 13 years.
Somewhere along the line there were two events which should have given me a clue to method which subsequently saved my life. The first was an incident that occurred when I was driving on the freeway here in California while I was visiting the doctor who had prescribed the Histamine cure. A headache had come upon me as I was driving and I was trying to get off the freeway. Another driver came up from behind and loudly blew his horn as he went by. The incident scared me so that my heart instantly started pounding as it does when anyone is deeply startled. The headache went a way in about a minute! I was surprised and relieved, but did not make any connection to the incident.
The second event happened back in Virginia. I was battling a particularly horrid attack. I finally lost my control and took off running, sobbing, and cursing. I ran until I could run no more and fell to the ground. A minute or so later the headache was gone, euphoria replaced it and all was well. I still was not tuned in enough to make a connection. By this time I had quit smoking and drinking, but the attacks continued.
Somewhere around 1980 my father, who lived nearby, read an article in Prevention Magazine about the abortive effects aerobic physical exertion had on Cluster headaches. I remember distinctly a picture of man running in place beside his bed while his wife slept. The next time I got a headache I put it to the test. I ran hard and fast until my heart was pounding and I was breathing very hard. Then I suddenly stopped, dropped to the ground and totally relaxed. Within one minute the headache was completely gone, euphoria had replaced it! My entire life changed from that moment. I had control! While I couldn=t win the war, I could win every battle! Since that time I have learned to excuse myself from all kinds of situations to go run off a headache. I have run blindly through night snowstorms, slipping on ice, drifting off trails into ditches, done pushups, deep knee bends, jumping jacks, ran in place, hand sawn through logs and split firewood at a frantic pace, in short, anything that would get my heart pumping hard and fast. All forms of exercise have worked, some much better than others. I have at times been lazy and not exercised hard enough and I've had to repeat. But the method is 100% effective for me and the few other sufferers that I have had contact with that have tried it.
For the last 10 years I have become episodic. I get anywhere from one to over two years respite. Currently, the attacks are once a night at 10:00 followed by any where from 0 to 6 attacks before the morning light. I don=t get a full night=s sleep, but immediately upon awakening with a headache, I get out of bed, jump on my bike, ( I have pulled a muscle in my right calf and can=t run), coast down the hill, turn around, and pump hard up the hill. I reach the house, go directly to bed and relax. In a minute or two the headache is about gone, euphoria is setting in and I fall asleep. From the time I wake up to the time I think I once again am asleep is probably about 10 minutes.
Aggravating? Absolutely! Devastating? No! I am in control. I can say no to these things and mean it. I no longer allow them to get to the level of stabbing chopping pain that I used to feel. I can abort them. I can drive them away.
For any of you out there who are in any physical shape to do aerobic exercise, please consider and try. I don't know if it will work for everyone but it has for all whom I know who have tried it.
Now, just a few observations. It seems I went from chronic to episodic at the same time that I went to a chiropractor. I had experienced a serious lower back spasm at that particular time (which really made aerobic exercise a delightful challenge) and had headache while I was there at his office. The chiropractor suggested he might be able to help, so for the next month or so of back treatment, he included treating my neck at the same time. While it didn=t seem to have any immediate effect, when the headaches went a way that time they went away for over a year and a half and I became episodic rather than chronic with breaks averaging about a year or more between episodes. That may have been coincidental, but I think worth reporting.
I have been unable to connect these things with anything. My rather soft opinion is that my system is allergic to a wide variety of substances which, when they combine to a certain level of toxicity result in my entering into a cluster episode. In these later years, I seem to be more susceptible in the spring/early summer and to a lesser extent, fall/early winter.
I don't know why aerobic exercise works. I can only guess that the body releases some substance (like adrenalin or endorphin (sp?) which may counteract whatever causes the headache. The only other thing I can figure is that my legs are demanding blood when I exercise and that reduces the pressure in the vascular system in my head thus decreasing vascular dilation which is apparently what causes the pain.
Early aerobic exercise seems to most quickly abort the headache. The longer you wait, the more exercise is required. I have sometimes felt, though, that early exercise results in a faster return of a subsequent headache, but I=m not very sure of that. Waiting too long may require a repeat session of exercise to completely abort the attack, but in all cases, strong aerobics will reduce the intensity, and a repeat will drive it away.
I can only deeply sympathize and empathize with all sufferers of cluster. I am genuinely hopeful that my story will be helpful to any and all who read this record. My confidence in this simple, drug-free, method of dealing with cluster is 100%. I do have to live with them, but they abide by my rules. They come in when they want, but leave when I want. I am truly grateful for the release from the prison of pain to which I had been sentenced and I am prayerful for all sufferers that they may find relief as have I.
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