Can Oxygen Therapy Help Treat Severe Headaches?

Here, we have a question from one of our readers about using oxygen therapy to treat migraines.

Reader Question:

"I get migraines once in a while. Someone I know suggested that I look into using oxygen therapy to treat them. If I buy a supplemental oxygen concentrator online, will I be able to use it to get rid of my migraines if I use it on a regular basis?"

It's true that oxygen therapy has been known to be able to treat and prevent migraines and cluster headaches. Talk to your doctor about whether or not he or she thinks this might be a good route for you to take, since it takes a very high concentration of medical grade oxygen to effectively prevent migraines.

Oxygen therapy will do much better at actually preventing a full-on migraine, than if you were to start the oxygen therapy after the migraine is in full force. To prevent the migraine, you would have to start with the oxygen right when you feel it coming on, and you would need to use 100% purity at 7 to 10 LPM (liters per minute).

This means you would need to either have oxygen tanks on hand, or you would need to get a high powered stationary oxygen concentrator. No portable oxygen concentrator can have a setting that high (the strongest ones can go up to only 3 LPM). With today's oxygen concentrator technology, only the bigger ones can go up to 7 to 10 LPM, with an oxygen purity of 100%.

Cluster headaches usually occur at night, so you would need to use the oxygen therapy while you are sleeping to prevent them. Nighttime use can be trickier, especially with a dosage setting as high as 7 to 10 LPM of continuous flow oxygen. You would definitely need a good mask, as well as a humidifier attached to the concentrator to prevent your airways from getting dried out while you sleep.

Since you would need such a high dose to prevent them, and you'd have to catch it at the right time, using oxygen therapy might not be the most realistic way to treat migraines or cluster headaches. However, if they are very severe and you get them frequently without much relief from other treatments, an oxygen concentrator might be a good investment.

As always, talk to your doctor to explore the best options for treating your migraines or other headaches. Oxygen therapy can help prevent the onset of one headache, but will not treat ones that you will have in the future.

About Scott Ridl: Scott joined American Medical Sales and Rentals in 2008 as a Web Manager and Content Writer. He is a writer and designer. He is extensively trained on oxygen therapy products from leading manufacturers such as Inogen, Respironics, Chart, Invacare, ResMed and more. Scott works closely with respiratory therapists and oxygen specialists to educate the community about oxygen therapy products, COPD, asthma and lung diseases. He writes weekly columns and is passionate about educating the community on oxygen therapy and respiratory issues.

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