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An unknown(?) treatment I'v found..

Matthew Johnston

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First, I have been getting left sided cluster headaches for the last 4 years and have tried every conceivable method mentioned on the internet to treat them with nearly no help.. Two years ago, I found something that works pretty good, however I have not seen any reference to other people using it so I wanted to at least throw it out there and see if anyone else uses it or maybe someone else will find some relief from it. 

 Basically, its physical pain.

 Personally, I use scalding hot water most often, but I have found that any real significant levels of pain help to make them go away quickly. From running scalding hot water over my feet to having my wife stab me all over my back with a fork. Causing extreme superficial pain somewhere else on my body is the only thing that I have found that helps even a little. 
 Dont get me wrong.. It sucks. However, it does not cause any lasting damage and it makes the pain in my head go away within only a couple minutes. 

I should disclaim, because I dont want anyone to hurt themselves ineffectively, that its not just pain.. It's the type of pain that makes you gasp and takes your breath away. This is why I use really hot water.. it is an easy and quick way to get that level of pain. I just use my bathtub faucet and turn it up as high as it will go. Your body is averted to that kind of pain it it will instinctively try to jerk away from it, you know.. because it hurts. But I just muscle through it. Even though it is agonizing, I force myself to keep my feet under the water for as long as I can stand it. When I pull my feet out of the water, the pain in my head is significantly decreased. 

Hot water is my fall back, however I have got the same relief from other forms of superficial pain. Having my wife rake my back with her nails as hard as she can has worked a handful of times, however that does actually cause damage and I dont recommend it. Last night, I had her stab me over and over in my back with a fork and that worked really well (one of my kids left the faucet in their bathroom running hot water so when I woke in agony at 2 this morning there was no hot water). It didnt really cause any significant damage to the skin, but it did hurt like a MF'r, which was my goal.

I just wanted to throw this out there to see what others thought about it and if anyone has found similar success in the results.

Please though, test the waters first (no pun intended). I dont know that it will work for others, only that it works really well for me. Also, please, dont cause phyical damage to yourself. Dont use water too hot. You dont want to cause blisters on your feet.. This is a quick fix and once you have made the pain in the head go away, you should not have physical pain from the treatment. 

I believe that causing lasting pain would probably desensitize you to it and would cause it to not work in the future. The pain has to be extreme, but it also needs to be superficial.  

Well, thats it.. Thoughts? Considerations? Similar results?


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You're not the first to use the hot-water-on-the-feet approach.  Several have reported it here, and said they had success with it.  However, I don't think they have made it as scalding as you have -- they have a different theory about how it works, which is not by displacing pain but by affecting blood flow. 


You say that you have "tried every conceivable method mentioned on the internet to treat them with nearly no help."  What does that include? High-flow oxygen with a good quality non-rebreather mask?  The vitamin D3 regimen?  Melatonin at night?  Energy drinks/energy shots?  Imitrex injections?  Busting????   Most people can abort an attack quite quickly with oxygen.  The D3 regimen is a very effective preventive.  Energy shots/drinks work very well for many or most people.  Busting (taking psychedelic drugs in a proper way) is very effective.


Let us know what you've done.  Maybe the extreme superficial pain strategy will turn out to be the one that works best for you -- but I really doubt it.

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It also fits somewhat with the idea the beast is modulated by the serotonergic nervous system.  There was some research at Johns Hopkins looking at trigeminal nerve stimulation (pain induction) and serotonin levels.  Of course anyone trying to slay the beast has a normal system in the first place so its hard to extrapolate how pain might mediate an attack.  Just don't hurt yourself there are enough scars as it is.

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My ex wife stabbed me in the back several times.  She didn't use a fork though, she had a lawyer do it for her...  ROFL. ;)  (ok, back to being serious.)  


Have you tried the methods primarily described on this site?  MM, LSA seeds, 100% high flow Oxygen etc?  They all work GREAT (and significantly less damaging than a fork. ;)



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I got the idea for the scalding hot from the whole "promote blood flow here/ restrict blood flow there" ice/warm water method. I found that it wasnt working and in an irrational moment of agony I decided to try just turning the water up as hot as it would go.  I was pleasantly surprised that it worked and it has been my fallback method ever since. 

I should have clarified, when I said that I have tried everything I have found on the internet, that does not include pills. I have a silly aversion to taking pills, even vitamins.. 
 Its stupid, but its a thing I have trouble shaking.. The only exception to that is antibiotics. I will take antibiotics, because, you know... I dont wanna die. 

Its stubborn, I know.. Its my own personal eccentricity and it hasnt killed me yet. (to be fair, I have never had a thing that was "take this pill, or die". If I did, Im sure I would reevaluate my position) I have not tried the oxygen method. Mostly, because I dont know where I would go about getting an oxygen tank and mask locally and I was sort of under the impression it was expensive.

All of my treatment methods so far have been more homeopathic. Unsurprisingly, none of them really worked, until the pain thing. 
 I have found some mild relief from my wifes stupid dotera oils. Namely, the citrus scented ones. They seem to help a little.

Rockstars/Coffee can help to postpone them when they first start to rear their ugly head, but that just holds them at stage 2 for a bit.. They always ramp back up, later.

 Exercise has helped a handful of times, but more often than not it doesnt work.

I have attributed stages to their progress, btw. 


Stage 1 is when they first start to show up. Noticeable by a slight discomfort right behind my left eye. It doesnt really hurt yet, but I can feel that something is weird. 
Stage 2 comes anywhere from 5-30 minutes late and can last anywhere from 5-15 minutes. Once stage two is in full effect, stage 3 is impending and I frantically try to fight it off with caffeine or vigorous exercise.

Stage 3 is where it really kicks into high gear. My left eye starts watering profusely and it feels like there is a demon inside my brain methodically trying to dig its way out of my face. 

I was actually just thinking the other day that I should make it 5 stages, instead of 3. I had a moment that was between 2 and 3 the other day. It hurt more than usual, but my eye wasnt watering. 
 Also, I think stage 3 is a bit too general. There are at least two levels of pain. So it would be 4 being when it first starts to come on and eye waters, and 5 being the time while Im totally incapacitated and the pain is too much to even function on a basic level and all you can do is rock back and forth on the ground and writhe your hands and feet.

Really, its irrelevant but I like to have a progress meter to gauge by.. its some small amount of solace. 


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You can get oxygen prescribed by a competent doctor (which means maybe there's a 30% chance of getting it, maybe up to 60 or 70 percent if you provide them with the info and you're persistent).  Lots of people get welding oxygen from a welding supply store and order a mask and regulator over the internet. Initial cost might be $200-$300, depending on a lot of factors (size of tank(s); quality of mask; rent or buy tanks; local market); only cost after that is tank refills.  If you want specifics, just ask.

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