You’ve tried everything for your cluster headaches, and you've gotten no relief. Is it time to look into an experimental treatment called neurostimulation?
The basic idea is to use electricity to activate nerve cells, which alters your body’s pain signals, says Joel R. Saper, MD, founder and director of the Michigan Headache & Neurological Institute in Ann Arbor.
Some of the devices that do that are hand-held. For others, you have to get surgery to implant them, usually in your head.
Beta-blockers usually treat high blood pressure and heart disease. It's not clear how they help prevent migraines. But it may be because they improve blood flow. Some that work for these headaches include:
Antidepressants. These medications affect the level of the brain chemical serotonin, which may be linked to migraines. Some of them, such as amitriptyline (Elavil) and venlafaxine (Effexor), can help keep the headaches away. Other kinds may work, too.
Triptans for menstrual-related migraines. These drugs treat migraines when they’re already happening, but one -- frovatriptan (Frova) -- can prevent migraines that women get because of their menstrual cycle. The medicine affects serotonin levels and may also relieve pain in other ways.
Botulinum toxin (Botox). Often used to treat wrinkles, it also helps some people who get migraines at least 15 days per month, called chronic migraines. It’s for people who have long-term migraine headaches, with the attack lasting 4 hours every day or longer. Doctors think Botox may keep the brain from giving off chemicals that the body uses to send pain signals.