Oxygen Therapy for Migraine Headaches

migraine, headacheTwo types of oxygen therapy may offer relief to people who suffer from disabling migraine and cluster headaches.

A review of a number of studies evaluated normobaric oxygen therapy and hyperbaric oxygen therapy in the treatment of migraines and cluster headaches. Normobaric therapy consists of patients inhaling pure oxygen at normal room pressure, and hyperbaric therapy involves patients breathing oxygen at higher pressure in a specially designed chamber.

Three studies reported a significant increase in the proportion of patients who had relief with hyperbaric oxygen compared to sham therapy. For cluster headaches, two studies found that a significantly greater proportion of patients had relief of their headaches after 15 minutes of normobaric therapy compared to sham therapy.

About 6 percent to 7 percent of men and 15 percent to 18 percent of women suffer from severe migraine headaches, and cluster headaches affect about 0.2 percent of the population.
Dr. Mercola's Comments:
When a migraine headache strikes, it can easily knock you off your feet. Aside from the throbbing pain, there may also be nausea, vomiting, or sensitivity to light and sound. The pain can be so severe that some of the patients I’ve seen have actually considered suicide as a reasonable solution!

It comes as no surprise then that headaches cost the U.S. economy an estimated $17 billion a year in lost work, disability payments and health care expenses.

What Causes Migraines?

It’s thought that migraines may stem from changes in the brain chemical serotonin. When levels drop, blood vessels including those in your brain become swollen and inflamed, leading to migraine pain. Other theories call migraines neurological disorders related to nerve cell activity that sweeps across your brain, causing pain.

Still other theories about migraines posit that they are caused by a disruption of the subtle energies circulating throughout your body, along with unresolved emotional issues that manifest in your body as headaches.

Oxygen therapy, which is used to treat everything from scuba diving illnesses to fibromyalgia and inflammatory bowel disease, could be useful if you were able to get treatment in the midst of an attack, which is highly unlikely for most people. Plus, it does absolutely nothing to prevent a future attack because it does not address the underlying cause.

What Typically Triggers Migraine Headaches?

It’s different for everyone but here is a breakdown of the common migraine triggers:
  • Food: Many people experience migraines when they eat certain foods, especially wheat, dairy, sugar, artificial preservatives or chemical additives. Cured or processed meats, alcohol, aspartame, caffeine, and MSG are common culprits.
  • Changes in sleeping cycle: Both missing sleep and oversleeping can trigger a migraine.
  • Stress: Any kind of emotional trauma can trigger a migraine, even after the stress has passed.
  • Physical exertion: Extremely intense exercise or even sex has been known to bring on migraines.
  • Hormones: Some women experience migraines before or during their periods, during pregnancy or during menopause. Others may get migraines from hormonal medications like birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy.
  • External stimuli: Bright lights, loud noises and strong smells (even pleasant ones) can trigger a migraine.
Among the many other possible migraine triggers are weather and seasonal changes, skipping meals, altitude, dehydration, allergies, fluorescent lights … easily a number of things that you could encounter in any given day.

Headache Medications: Causing More Harm Than Good

A debilitating headache may be one instance where you could justify popping a pill that would give you instant relief. But headache medications only work in 50 percent of people half the time.

They also have intense side effects, including “medication overuse headache,” which often occurs when people take too much of a headache drug. Once you taper off the drug, you can also get rebound headaches that can be worse than the original!

Other side effects of migraines drugs include:
  • Ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Stroke and heart attack
  • Muscle weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
Fortunately, there is a better way.

Quick, Natural Tips to Relieve a Migraine

Preventing migraines begins by avoiding the triggers. Most often this means eating healthy whole foods (avoiding most processed ones) and managing your stress effectively. Regular exercise will also help to keep migraines away by improving your response to stress along with the underlying inflammatory conditions that can trigger migraines.

Ideally, these are the things to focus on so that you can reduce your migraines altogether.

But if a migraine does strike and you need relief NOW, try:

1. Stimulating your body's natural painkilling ability. By putting pressure on a nerve just under your eyebrow, you can cause your pituitary gland to release painkilling endorphins immediately.

2. Taking 10 teaspoons of cayenne pepper in a glass of water. Endorphins are released by your brain when the cayenne hits your stomach lining.

3. Using Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). Newcomers who use this simple process by themselves achieve relief 50 percent to 80 percent of the time and, in many cases, the relief is complete and permanent. More sophisticated uses by an EFT expert may be required for some migraine sufferers.

4. Green apple scent. One study found that the scent significantly relieved migraine pain. This may also work with other scents that you enjoy so consulting with an aromatherapist may be beneficial.

Other useful techniques include:
  • Putting a cold compress on your forehead or behind your neck
  • Massaging your ears and ear lobes
  • Massaging the "crown" of your head -- the ring of muscles that circle your head where a crown would sit
Some people even say that having a purring cat, which sends out low frequency vibrations, next to their head relieves migraine pain.

The point is that there are many, many non-drug options out there, and finding the one that works for you is likely just a matter of trial and error.