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Cluster Migraine ???


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Hey gang,

This term 'Cluster Migraine', when people use it, do they really mean cluster headache? Or... are they referring to migraines that come in clusters?

I've seen it used a few times, and today my book keeper mentioned that she and her son have cluster migraines.

Google was uncharacteristically unhelpful.



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Moxie, I looked this up a while back after encountering someone that there is such a thing as cluster migraines, and that his son has them.  I agree with you it's hard to get a clear answer to your question.  I'm kind of trusting that this journal article is stating it correctly -- that some people have symptoms that partly fit the clinical definition of CH, and also symptoms that partly fit the clinical definition of migraine, but they don't fall, clinically, into one category or the other, but that "cluster-migraine" is not a good clinical diagnosis.


Cluster-migraine: does it exist?

Applebee AM1, Shapiro RE.

Author information


The nosological boundaries between cluster headache and migraine are sometimes ill-defined. Although the two disorders are distinct clinical entities, patients sometimes present with clinical scenarios having characteristics of both headache types, but either do not fully meet International Classification of Headache Disorders, Second Edition diagnostic criteria for either disorder or have sufficient symptoms and signs to allow both diagnoses to be present. These occasions provide diagnostic challenges and include what is variously described as migraine-cluster, cyclical migraine, clustering episodes of migraine, cluster with aura, or atypical cluster without autonomic symptoms or severe pain. Patients with symptoms overlapping cluster headache and migraine likely reflect the inherent clinical variability in each of these two disorders, rather than distinct diagnostic entities in their own right.

As I was just casually following up on this, I saw this 1997 report on the coexistence of migraine and CH and of course thought of you (and others, like Mystina). http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9046719 This part of a sentence caught my eye: >>The present series seems not to confirm the hypothesis that migraine transforms into cluster headache...<< Guess maybe we've come a long way, if that hypothesis could somehow have been held not so long ago.

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Hey CHS,

Loved the blog. It confirms what I thought and explains it well. Like you, I've never found a medical definition of a cluster migraine. Probably some clueless doctor trying to sound like they know more than they do.

I was once in the throws of a 5 day migraine, and had a really bad cluster in the middle of it. At first, it added to the pain. The worst part is that the cluster drove me to move, to get up, to pace, to bang my head, while the migraine was screaming at me to not move an inch or even open my eyes!

But then, the cluster completely overwhelmed the migraine. About 45 minutes later, the cluster faded away and so did the migraine. Well, for about 2 hours anyway. It seemed like the cluster scared the migraine away, and I enjoyed 2 hours of blissful pain-freeness in the middle of a bad migraine.

Weird, huh.


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I have both. Chronic cluster and migraine sufferer. My pain level is a consistent 3-4 on the migraine side daily and as far as clusters go, that's multi-daily. This has been since 2009 daily and between 1991 & 2000 from October thru January. The clusters make me want to pace, move, headbang and wrap a towel up and use like a vice to squeeze my skull but, the migraine side wants utter stillness, NO LIGHT (net even the most minute LED from electronics), no noise or contact not to mention vomiting.

I feel so fortunate for having this combo? I'm like a Bugatti Veyron but, the SS version I say to myself. i also say that my amps ALL go to 11. Since July 04 I have had no meds. I get too depressed and flush any pills I have. Luckily I dont like alcohol. Lots of people in the mental health field, most of them, don't understand the severity of depressional pain which I don't understand because I worked proffesionally and as an outreach worker in that field but also in that field you not educated on that. The chrisis worker who came to my aide recently had no clue that my suicidal antics are the main reasoning as a soul result of sever constant pain. She was sympathetic but inexperienced.

Neither are eithe. But both are no delight. My most recent six day hospital visit for malnutrition, dehydration and to help manage pain I FINALLY met a nurse who's had both CH and natural child birth. She understood me and confirmed a CH IS more painful the natural child birth. I cried like a little school girl.

Hope this helps, Rob

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  • 3 years later...


Although this is an old topic, I want to hook in here as its one that personally affects me. Well if you have read my earlier posts, I am such a case that should fit into this fuzzy "cluster migraine" description. I just describe here a bit further what has happened to me over the past years:

I have always had migraine without aura from childhood (I a now 49), so my entire life more or less, and they were always episodes of 24 up to 48 hours of normal migraine. A deep throbbing pain accompanied with nausea, photo-phobia and so on. Really the very standard migraine but always severe. In 2010 however I experienced something unusual as during a migraine attack (I was quietly laying in my bed in a dark room to sit it out) the pain at once became immensely strong and was of a complete different nature than I was used too. I could not stay in my bed anymore and got up and was running around.  I did not know it then but it was a typical CH pain. It stayed for around one hour, then suddenly went away for 10 - 15 minutes and then it came back for another hour. It was so strong I could no more stand it and had to take a triptan, which I tried to avoid, to get finally some relief. I thought wow... this is an exceptionally hard migraine. But it did not stay that way. A few months later, after some normal migraines, I got this hard one again. Then I started thinking it was caused by taking triptans, although I did not use that many and definitely not enough for overuse. So for the next 3-4 years, I avoided triptans as much as I could but those extremely heavy episodes kept coming. More and more I started to ask what was going on and ask myself if this was really still migraine or something else was happening. While that was going on, a new symptom started to appear... my nose got congested and needed lots of handkerchief during those attacks and at the same time I felt the tears in my right eye. That was the moment where I started to think about CH but I thought that maybe it is just not that because it still takes more than 3 hours, it has a very slow onset (multiple hours to get to its maximum and I do not show the typical "cluster cycles". I asked my doctor then what was going on and he advised me to seek help from a specialized neurologist. After hearing my story he diagnosed me with both migraine and CH and gave me oxygen which helps me enormously.

Now 8 year further, my migraines become more and more CH like but they keep many migraine characteristics as well... i see often now that during the attacks, the nausea and photophobia are not appearing so its only the brutal pain that is left and the entire thing is showing more and more a cyclic pattern (more concentrated between may and august and the rest of the year rather quiet). So I am now in a situation where I fulfill around 80 % of the criteria of both conditions. I will see how that evolves further.

Thanks for reading my story and Best Regards !




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