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Scuba diving and cluster headaches


Fcharp
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I suffer from cluster headache episodes. They happen every 10 years or so and last up to 9 months with frequent attacks. Home-based oxygen therapy works for me (fortunately) to abort attacks. But what worked for me even better is scuba diving at relatively deep depths. I discovered this by accident a few years ago as I was preparing for a 120 feet dive on regular air. I had geared up and was preparing to dive in when an acute attack started. I was in month 3 of the episode and my morale had been eroded by the frequency and violence of the attacks (at that time, my physician had refused to supply me with home-based oxygen treatment - she was afraid I would start a fire!). We had been planning the dive for days and I thought to myself: "Screw that... I'm going in.". While the first few minutes were made quite difficult by the pain, I started feeling better at 80 feet and the attack vanished when we reached 120 feet.

At first, I though this was a coincidence. But as we repeated the 120+ feet dives over the next 4 days, something unexpected happened: the episode was aborted and I was pain free for years afterwards. After talking to my neurologist about this event, he confirmed that there were more reports of busting an episode with diving at these depths. He also explained that he prescribed hyperbaric chamber treatment at simulated depths of 60 feet for cluster headache sufferers. He also explained that at the depths we went to, the oxygen concentration is almost 5 times higher than at surface level (approx. pO2 1.0 ATA at 125 feet vs 0.21 ATA at surface). This was the equivalent of a mammoth O2 treatment.

I don't suggest here that anybody go out there and try this. Diving at these depths require special training and certification. But if you are a diver who is qualified and who suffers from cluster headaches, consider it. But make sure that you are comfortable at those depths (i.e. not anxious) and that your buddies are aware of your condition and what you are attempting to do. 

Frederic

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WOW. The potential of hyperbaric treatment has been on my radar for a long time, but your report about the deep depths scuba therapy is the coolest - that has to be the about the best surprise you have ever had!

Will be interested to see if our long time CH'er (and also scuba diver I believe) @ThatHurtsMyHead has a take on this.

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@Fcharp

When in cycle diving is a definite no for me.  I've tried it twice and never again.  The descent is fine on air or EAN36.  As soon as I break the surface I get hit with a k10 and scrambling to get back on the boat and the onboard 100% O2 ASAP.  

Do you do a deco stop with a high O2 for Nitrogen washout?  or 21% all the way down and back up?  

J

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Recently I had a conversation with a fellow clusterhead who is not always considered a "pure" clusterhead by professionals since his CH began after whiplash neck injury. Oxygen works magnificiently well with him. He said he has used diving as a preventative (with gear not very deep I assume) and currently has a swimming pool at work and is using diving in that every morning. He's bit of an odd bird, also uses snuff (tobacco you put under your lip) to prevent his CH.

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Wow, so for someone like him, it's: "Got cluster's? Go lay down in the deep end of your pool!" Or maybe it isn't "lay down" at the bottom so much, since last I checked as a kid you have to empty your lungs to pull that off, and that wouldn't be so O2 enriching? Maybe he uses some weights in order to stay deep with full lungs?

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I don't know the details. He said he is super sensitive to barometric pressure, I kind of thought it might be something like that in his case.

I think his own tricks are at least partially because he has not had any contact with other clusterheads up until just very recently. He has had no idea what should or should not be tried.

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