Treat cluster headaches by inhaling pure oxygen

Originally published in Insidermedicine

Inhaling pure oxygen at a fast rate can reduce or even eliminate the pain of cluster headaches, according to a study published in the December 9 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Here is some information about cluster headaches:
• It is an excruciating type of headache that tends to occur in a cyclical pattern
• Bouts of frequent attacks – known as clusters – can continue for weeks or months
• Inhaled oxygen is used to treat cluster headaches, usually at a rate of 7 to 10 L/min

Researcher from the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London treated over 100 adults suffering from cluster headaches with either 100% inhaled oxygen delivered at a rate of 12L/min or a placebo. The participants treated four episodes of their headaches with one type of treatment, then the next four with the other treatment. Both treatments were delivered via a face mask for 15 minutes at the onset of symptoms, and the participants did not know when they were receiving 100 % oxygen or regular air.

Overall, the oxygen treatment eliminated the pain or provided adequate pain relief 78% of the time when used at the onset of a cluster headache episode. In contrast, the placebo provided the same degree of relief only 20% of the time.

Today’s research demonstrates how inhaling 100% oxygen at a faster than usual rate can provide relief from cluster headaches, which are both extremely painful and notoriously difficult to treat.