The Relationship Between Oxygen Therapy and Cluster Headaches

Many people don’t understand the benefits of oxygen therapy in treating cluster headaches, which is a shame because it can be beneficial.

Most sufferers of cluster headaches are treated using opioids, which can have many negative side effects. 

What Exactly Are Cluster Headaches? 

“In a recent survey of patients with cluster headache, AMF [American Migraine Foundation]  found that 74% of patients who had tried oxygen for the acute treatment of their attacks reported it to be effective/very effective.” 

Cluster headaches are different from generic migraines. While they seem related, the symptoms are different. Cluster headaches are nicknamed “suicide headaches” because of their crippling intensity. Cluster headaches symptoms are:

  • Excruciating pain that is generally situated in, behind or around one eye, but may radiate to other areas of your face, head, and neck
  • One-sided pain
  • Restlessness
  • Excessive tearing
  • Redness of your eye on the affected side
  • Stuffy or runny nose on the affected side
  • Forehead or facial sweating on the affected side
  • Pale skin (pallor) or flushing on your face
  • Swelling around your eye on the affected side
  • Drooping eyelid on the affected side

If you have just started to experience cluster headaches, you should speak with your doctor to rule out any other diseases or causes. Cluster headaches often come in “clusters” that can last for a week to a year where headaches are frequent. Then there may be times of remission where you can go even years without having an episode. Discuss your options for treatment with your doctor and make sure to ask whether oxygen therapy is an appropriate medical intervention for you.

Breathing Techniques

If you are going to use oxygen to treat cluster headaches, you need to know the proper breathing techniques. Simply breathing in oxygen is not the most effective way. The Aborting Cluster Attack with Hyperventilation Technique is the most common breathing technique.

“Aborting Cluster Attack with Hyperventilation Technique: Begin by exhaling completely to the point where you hear yourself wheeze. Take quick, short breaths in until your lungs are full and do a complete exhale again. Repeat this until the attack has passed, but no longer than 15 minutes at a time. If the attack persists, take a ten-minute break and try it again. You should have around 24-30 breath cycles each minute using this option, and you’re supposed to feel lightheaded once it’s done.”

There are other breathing techniques that can be used, so try different techniques until you find the most effective one for you. You should feel relief in about 15 minutes.

O2 Assist Can Help with Your Home Oxygen Needs

Oxygen tanks come in a variety of sizes and styles. You’ll want larger tanks to keep in your home so that you don’t run out. Depending upon the frequency of your attacks, you may want to explore portable oxygen tanks that you carry with you as well as the larger tanks for your home. Quick response to an oncoming cluster headache helps the oxygen therapy be more effective.

If you’re not sure where to start, take this useful quiz to find the right equipment for you. O2 Assist is a trusted oxygen provider. We can help you to start using oxygen to treat your cluster headaches so that you can finally find some relief. If you have questions, please contact us at