Migraine + Cluster Complicates Treatment

The Art of Migraine and Headache Management

The National Headache Foundation has designated June as Migraine and Headache Awareness Month.

This year’s theme is “The Art of Migraine and Headache Management.”

Since its inception in 2012, a social media and blogging challenge is issued to encourage those affected by headache disorders to share facts and dispel stigma. There is a new fact each day, along with a prompt for bloggers.

Today’s Prompt:Discuss the challenges you have experienced with #Migraine and other #Headache disorders.”

I’ve had Migraine since I was a small child. Then just before my 30th birthday, I experienced a headache unlike any Migraine attack. The pain was beyond unbearable. My doctor and I were at a complete loss. The searing agony would not respond to any medication we tried. After a few months, we began to put the pieces together. With the help of a good neurologist, this monster finally had a name—Cluster Headache. What a benign name for such a horrific disease!

The biggest personal challenge has been finding a doctor who understood both conditions well enough to be an effective treatment partner. I found plenty of skilled neurologists who understood migraine and had a great attitude toward working with patients. Yet, when I asked about cluster headache, the conversation often sounded like this:

Doctor: “Do you have oxygen?”

Me: “Yes, but…”

Doctor: “Okay, that’s good.”

Me: “But I’d like to have fewer attacks.”

Doctor: “When are your cycles?”

Me: “Um, I’m always in cycle. I don’t get breaks. I’m chronic.”

Doctor: “Oh, I’m afraid I can’t help you. Now let’s talk about those migraines.”

I searched for years trying to find anyone who had any knowledge on treating someone with both chronic migraine and chronic cluster headache. Occasionally I’d find one who had elementary knowledge, but no one with whom I could discuss any of the new research or recent advances. I got tired of being offered outdated, failed treatments when I knew that better options were available. I was desperate to find a doctor who could be an equal partner, much less one whose knowledge surpassed my own. After 17 years of life with chronic cluster headache and chronic migraine, I’ve finally found a true partner who understands the complicated issues of treating both.

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