How Long Does a Cluster Headache Cycle Usually Last?

How Long Does a Cluster Headache Cycle Usually Last?

A cluster headache is a rare but severe type of headache that causes burning or piercing pain on one side of your head. In addition to the pain, they may also cause a droopy eyelid, watery eyes, and a stuffy nose. These aren’t the only unique characteristics of cluster headaches: They also occur in cyclic patterns or clusters. 

Here at Beverly Hills Headache Institute 一 a holistic practice that blends Western neurology practices with traditional Eastern healing practices to help you regain optimal health 一 my team and I diagnose and treat cluster headaches. 

Below, I answer a question I often hear: How long do cluster headache cycles last?

How long does a cluster headache cycle usually last?

There are two questions to unpack here: How long does each individual headache attack last, and how long does the overarching cluster period last? 

Single attack

Cluster headaches are one-sided headaches that occur in groups before going away for a while. Each individual headache attack can cause symptoms for 15 minutes to 3 hours, although many tend to be about 45 minutes. 

The attacks usually occur at the same time every day, start and end quickly, and often occur at night (but not always). Because the attacks end as quickly as they start, you may be pain-free after the attack but feel fatigued. 

You may experience as many as eight attacks in one day. 

Episodic clusters

Not only is experiencing eight headaches in one day miserable, but this pattern can occur daily for weeks or months at a time. 

Each episodic cluster then goes into a pain-free remission period. The pain-free remission periods last for at least three months but can extend for years.

What triggers a new cycle to start?

 Cluster headache is a type of trigeminal autonomic cephalgia 一 a group of primary headaches 一 but the exact cause of cluster headaches is still unknown. There are a few known triggers, though. Alcohol and nicotine can worsen a current episode, but some triggers can start a new cluster period. 

These triggers include:

If you suspect you have cluster headaches, consider keeping a log of your symptoms, the frequency of your headaches, where you feel pain, and any other notable information (weather, diet, seasonal issues, etc.). 

Get help for your cluster headaches

Although you can go years between episodes, it’s miserable when the cluster headaches resurface. Because headaches can have multiple causes and many conditions that can trigger them, I approach headache treatment from multiple angles, including:

Questions about cluster headaches? If you’d like to learn more about treating and preventing cluster headaches, schedule a visit by calling my office in Beverly Hills, California, or using my online booking form.

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