Health Team

Cluster headache sufferers find relief in oxygen

Posted December 8, 2009

Cluster headache patients say the pain they experience can be more excruciating than childbirth or a gunshot wound. Attacks usually occur several times a day and can go on for weeks or months.

A new study reveals an easy and effective way to bring relief.

Oxygen has given Valerie Walker a drug-free way of cutting the length of a cluster headache, which can last anywhere from 15 minutes to three hours several times a day.

“(A) cluster headache for me is on one side of the head and it's usually a very piercing, stabbing pain the eye area,” she said.

Researchers followed 76 patients in London, England from 2002 to 2007, treating four cluster headaches in each patient using air and oxygen. The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and found patients using the oxygen were most likely pain-free after 15 minutes of treatment.

“Our study showed for the first time a clear difference between oxygen and air in treatment of acute cluster headache,” said Dr. Peter Goadsby, of the University of California. “Twenty percent of attacks were improved on placebo, which is air, and 78 percent of attacks were improved on oxygen, a clear difference in favor of oxygen.”

Researchers found that not only does the oxygen help stop the pain of an attack, it also can turn off other symptoms including eye watering, swelling and redness.


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  • NCbluebird Dec 11, 2009

    I stated something wrong, and just to clarify: my cluster headaches lasted through July, August, and into September of 2007.

  • NCbluebird Dec 11, 2009

    I had clusters for 10 weeks in July of 2007. I averaged 3 headaches per day, each lasting 1.5 to 2 hours. It was an agony that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. My doctor prescribed O2, but insurance wouldn't pay for it. Medications didn't help at all. Coffee helped to a degree, but essentially there was still nothing to do but ride them out, which meant sitting in a chair and moaning for two hours. I can't explain exactly why, but unlike migraines, when suffering one of these headaches, I found it impossible to lie down. If anyone has any doubts about how awful these headaches are, go read the wikipedia page about them. I hope I never have another round of them.

  • rrzx-14 Dec 10, 2009

    Good news!
    I wonder if it will help with migraines.

  • one Dec 9, 2009

    The People's Pharmacy had an article on O2 & headaches earlier this year.
    Same results - it worked

  • MillerB Dec 9, 2009

    Maybe this study will help in making O2 a viable treatment with insurance. Currently all insurances consider O2 treatment for cluster headaches to be experimental, and will not approve it for payment.

  • Southern Cal Dec 9, 2009

    I have suffered from Cluster Headaches for 40 years. I have been using Oxygen as an abortive since 2003 and it does work.