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A unique approach for cluster headaches

By Staff | Aug 25, 2016

Cluster headaches are often considered the worst headache type known to medical science. These headaches occur in “attacks” – known as clusters – and typically involve debilitating pain on one side of the head behind the eye as well as tearing of the eye, drooping of the eyelid and nasal congestion.

Because of the intensity of pain, most cluster headache patients are unable to lie down during an attack; instead, they characteristically pace the floor until the pain subsides. These individuals typically are unable to work, attend school or function normally during their attacks.

While cluster headaches can be triggered by a number of factors – including alcohol, stress, change in season, or barometric pressure changes – it is important to understand that these “trigger factors” do not cause cluster headaches.

One causal factor, which is beginning to appear more frequently in medical research, is head and/or neck trauma. Examples include blows to the head, whiplash and/or concussion through motor vehicle accidents, athletics or falls. It is thought that trauma to the alignment of the skull and upper neck bones (C1 and C2 vertebrae) alters nerve and blood flow in the brainstem, leading to cluster headaches.

A rare chiropractic technique that focuses upon the alignment of the head and neck – known as upper cervical care – has shown promise for cluster headache patients. In order to determine whether a cluster headache patient may benefit from care, the upper cervical chiropractor will perform two diagnostic tests: thermal imaging and digital X-rays of the spine. These tests accurately assess the alignment of an individual’s head and neck. If an upper cervical misalignment is diagnosed, the patient’s injured neck is corrected by administering a precise adjustment by hand on a specially designed knee chest table.

Many cluster headache patients notice improvement in symptoms with just a few treatments.

With over 20 years of experience as a specialist in the upper cervical spine, Upper Cervical Chiropractor Dr. Erin Elster, D.C., has successfully treated over 300 patients with chronic headaches, including cluster, migraine, and tension. Her published headache research is available on her website: www.erinelster.com. For more information, or to schedule an appointment, contact Dr. Elster in Kahului at (808) 866-6551 or erin@erinelster.com.