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Dealing with a cluster headache attack

In this post I will dive deeper into what I did to better be able to handle my attacks. I use a natural way of dealing with a cluster headache attack. I’ll try and explain the different techniques I use during, but also outside of attacks and how they help me in being better able to cope with them.

Disclaimer; I am in no way a healthcare professional. Everything I discuss here is based on my personal experience. What I describe are my personal experiences and opinions. What you do with the information on this site is entirely up to you. Things that have worked for me might not work for you, as everyone is different. I would always advise you to keep in contact with your healthcare professionals and be honest with them if and when you decide to try some of the things that I have done.

The start of dealing with a cluster headache attack

Like most of you will understand, I was unable to sit still during a cluster headache attack. For me a cold, dark and quiet room is best, as my body temperature rises to extreme highs. When first starting out using the natural way of dealing with a cluster headache attack, I would use an amethyst stone to help me relief some of the pain. Because I didn’t want to wake up any of my flatmates, my former girlfriend and later on my husband, I forced myself not to pace around the room. Instead, I used to sit and rock my body back and fort.

It will probably be grim

Being a ClusterViking, and dealing with a cluster headache attack the natural way will not be easy, as you will experience the extreme pain of a cluster headache attack on a rampage. In the beginning you will suffer, and it might seem it’s not worth it. You can always decide to go back to taking a different approach. Every thing I talk about can be stopped or changed at any moment you decide for yourself. It is always smart to inform your health care professional if you want to stop with medication that needs you to slowly decrease your doses like verapamil, or lithium and such.

Ways you can improve dealing with a cluster headache attack

Like I said earlier, I do not use any attack canceling medications anymore. The reason for that is twofold. For one, I discovered they delayed the cluster headache attack and made the next one even worse. The second reason was one that occurred later on as I started to understand the cluster headache better. I’ll get back to that later.

Medication

Quitting the attack canceling medication reduced the frequency of my attacks from 8 a day to 1 or 2 a day. Massive gains!

The natural way of dealing with a cluster headache attack took me over a decade to master, but I did learn the quickest way to stop an attack. This go’s against everything I naturally wanted to do when I had my first attacks. In a nutshell it comes down to that you need to go into the pain. But that is easier said than done.

Breaking the attack down

If you go toward where you experience the pain the most and allow it to be, you will find that it spikes for a brief moment, and then after a minute or 2 it will evaporate. The attack will cease, and you will save yourself a lot of pain. I know it sounds crazy, but this is truly my experience. Yet I only found this out very late into my dealing with the cluster headache.

By then I had developed techniques that already relieved pain, warned me when an attack was manifesting, and I was able to remain fairly calm in the midst of a cluster headache attack. So I’m not sure that I would have been able to do that, or that you will. If not, then these here below are what helped me get to the point of being able to go toward the pain.

Breathing and feeling

First I needed to learn to handle the pain. For me, it mainly came down to breathing and feeling. When I combine those 2 I’m able to break the cluster headache attack down quickly. Below I will try and describe the best I can, how you can learn to deal with a cluster headache attack yourself. It will take practice, but a ClusterViking never backs down and always wins.

Man dealing with a cluster headache attack by using breathing technique
Breathing

Breathing will help you remain calm during a cluster headache attack and prevent you from becoming overwhelmed. I found that there are 2 different techniques that work for me.

  1. Box breathing
  2. 639 breathing, or as I call it; love breathing.
Box breathing

Box breathing is a breathing technique that was invented by the U.S. Navy SEALs. They use it to reduce stress and keep calm in the most extreme situations. The technique is quite straight forward and easy to learn;

  1. Breathe in to your nose for 4 seconds.
  2. Hold that breath for 4 seconds.
  3. Exhale through your nose for 4 seconds.
  4. Hold again for 4 seconds.
Explains box breathing
Box breathing

Repeat over and over again. This will help calm you down during a cluster headache attack.

639 or love breathing

This is a breathing technique that I developed myself. It derives from the vibrational frequency of the heart chakra 639Hz. The heart is pure love, so it’s also known as the love frequency. Applied to breathing it goes as follows;

  1. 6 second inhale through the nose.
  2. 3 second hold.
  3. 9 second release through the nose.
explains love breathing
Love breathing

Relaxing the nervous system

Scientific study shows that when we exhale longer than we inhale, we relax the vagus nerve and our body’s. That’s exactly what this technique does.

Normally, when a cluster headache attack forces me to use a breathing technique I’ll use box breathing. I would suggest you start with that one. The 639 breathing is something I use both during and outside attacks. Outside I’ll do it when I’m walking our dog or driving somewhere. That way I calm my nerve’s system preemptively, and I think helps me prevent more cluster headache attacks. Besides that it’s a clear signal to the body that you love it.

Both techniques will help you remain more calm and less overwhelmed when dealing with a cluster headache attack. They will also give you something to focus on during the attack. That will help you in detaching yourself from the attack. As that is crucial. We are often so consumed by an attack that we feel like we are the cluster headache, that we are the attack and the pain. Or at least that has been my experience. And although cluster headache is part of our life, we are not cluster headache, we are ClusterVikings, and we ALWAYS win!

Feeling
During attacks

As I was fighting the cluster headache I noticed that the pain I felt at my eye, temple and jaw was not the place they came from. My doctor had explained a bit about what an attack looks like inside the body. The blood vessels expand, so does the vain, the muscles contract and that crushes the nerve. This all happens in the neck he told me. At the end of those nerves the pain is felt. Using verapamil or sumatriptan we take away one of the symptoms by diluting the blood vessels. That makes the symptoms fade.

Nerves in the jaw
The nerves in the jaw where we experience the pain
Location

If where we experience the pain is not the place it originates from, that means that place must be else wear. According to my doctor, the neck. So during my attacks I went on a search to find out where my nerves were getting crushed. I did this by running my fingers down my throat, between my collarbones and in my neck. Always searching for contractions in my muscles. Quite similar to when you try and massage a muscle, actually.

After uncountable cluster headache attacks I found that for me, the neck and the throat are where most of my “blockades” are. Especially the throat. The blockades feel like big hard balls. When I press against them, it relieves the pain on the end of the nerve.

Anatomy of the throath
Image from www.hyperparathyroidmd.com

The image above links to a site that explains in more detail the parts of the throat and their function. I found that swelling and expanding of my Thyroid lobe (1-4 in this image) in combination with my veins expanding (12-17) is most likely the reason for my cluster headache attack. The swelling from both ends crushes the nerves (6,7 and 10) which I believe, results in the excruciating pain we experience in our head. At least for me, it does.

Macabre game of hide and seek

This then became a macabre game of hide and seek between me and the cluster headache. Searching and searching until I found a blockade. Once found, I would press and try and make it go away. Sometimes it would be overwhelming as, I’m not sure how to describe it, but there comes a sort of energy over you. It’s not a pleasant experience. Multiple times has it taken me to the brink of passing out. But it would always pass, and the blockade would fade. The game continued once a blockade was gone as the cluster headache would try and find another route. This would go on for as long as the cluster headache attack was manifesting.

After years, I now understand that it was the Thyroid lobe that was (for me) the biggest cause of all the suffering. Every time I have an attack, I will go to the Thyroid lobe and feel the swelling with my fingers, trying to let it calm down. By actively telling it to calm, by massaging, and by absorbing the energy generated by it (you’ll understand what I mean by that once you go to the Thyroid lobe during an attack).

Outside the attacks

Outside attacks, I was searching for ways to improve my ability to feel. Because that would help me in finding the trouble point of an attack sooner. What I do to hone that skill is what I call a full body check. When I started this, I did it on a daily basis. Now I do it once or twice a week.

Usually I do this right after meditating, as I’m still in that relaxed state. Sitting up right I close my eyes and start with visualizing my toe’s. I think about them, see them in my mind, smile at them (physically smile) and I try and feel them, but I do not move them.

From there I go to the sole of my feet, then the ankle etc. First I work from my feet, to my back and up to my crown. Then I work my way back down to my crotch. Once there I go internally, checking all my vital organs. Working my way up to my throat (especially my Thyroid), mouth and eventually my brain and nerves system. This takes me about 15 to 20 minutes. Sometimes I do it whilst listening to a solfeggio frequency.

Becoming better at dealing with a cluster headache attack

This has resulted in me becoming better and better at feeling. So much so, that where I used to be awakened by the cluster being at full strength already, I now would wake when it was only at the beginning stage. This gave me the opportunity to better combat and handle the attacks.

Woman waking up

The first times you do this outside of attack feeling technique, it can feel weird. You might lose concentration or your thoughts shift. Not to worry, just go back to where you were and continue. Sometimes you feel something, a sort of warmth, sometimes you’ll feel nothing. It doesn’t matter. Your body knows what you are doing and will react even if it might not seem that way. Your body is actually very intelligent. It knows what it should do. I know that sounds weird, because then why do we have cluster headache right? This brings me to my second reason of why I stopped the attack canceling medication.

The second reason

It’s widely accepted that pain is a signal from the body that something is wrong. You cut yourself, and it hurts, alerting you to the cut. Same thing when you fall and break a bone. So maybe, cluster headache attacks are something similar, alerting us that something is wrong. As the doctors can not explain physically what the defect is, maybe the cause is something different. It’s a thought, an idea, one that I believe in.

This can be numerous things, a diet, bad posture, too much stress, mental problems, lack of self-love. Fact is (for me at least) that once I stopped those meds, and started to naturally dealing with cluster headache attacks, the frequency of attacks drastically dropped. As if the cluster headache was in less need to keep reminding me that there was something wrong. Just a thought.

Once I started to actually taking care of myself, and loving myself, the cluster headache started to recede even more. They’re not fully gone yet, but they are so much better. I know this must sound weird, and I can fully understand that you might not believe me. That’s fine, I know I might not have believed it myself. In the next post about science, spirituality and energy I will dive deeper into this.

Going into the pain

As my goal was to stop the attacks as quickly as possible I searched what more I could do to shorten the attack even further. I found that going directly into the pain could do that. But it’s difficult as the pain is extremely intense. If I’m lucky that will be all there is to it, if not then the attack might try and manifest itself again, but by then I’m on top of my game and know where it originates from. That enables me to tackle the hide and seek game at its root (for me the Thyroid and its surroundings).

To close

As a ClusterViking these 2 breathing techniques can assist you to better feel, and created a sort of awareness during attacks. A bit similar to being in a meditative state. You will still experience the pain and all the hardship, and it will take time to master this. But the results will eventually benefit you greatly.

Man meditating

In time, you will be warned much earlier that an attack is manifesting, and going in to the pain becomes much less intense, as the pain is not at its full strength yet. Doing this, for me feels like I was no longer being controlled by the cluster headache, it is more like I’m watching myself battle the cluster headache attack. It has enabled me to remain somewhat calm, play the game of hide and seek with the cluster, and has stopped me from running into walls.

Now don’t get me wrong, it still takes a toll on me, so it will on you. After an attack I need some time, 15 to 30 min to regain myself, but after that I can mostly continue with my day. I hope this can provide you with the same.

Taking it further

I know this way of dealing with a cluster headache attack is an unconventional one. One that you might not want to try. I totally get that. Dealing with a cluster headache attack like this is not the only thing you can do to better your situation.

There are actually a lot of things we can do, when we take responsibility for them. In order to make everything described by me thus far work better and for you, you might need to change some of your convictions about yourself and cluster headache as a disease. In the next 3 posts I will try and help you do just that. Changing my believes has been of great benefit to me, and hopefully will be for you too. You can read the first of those post HERE

Remember friends; you ALWAYS win!