Relieving Cluster Headaches with Capsaicin Cream

Studies are currently under way to evaluate the efficacy of topical capsaicin in the prevention and relieve of cluster headaches. Capsaicin is the substance that makes chili peppers hot and in its purified form reduces certain types of pain when used over the course of a few weeks. It does this by depleting substance P, a neurochemical that transmits pain impulses to the brain.

Capsaicin cream is commonly used to treat muscle and joint pain, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and prutitis (itching) by applying to the skin. The treatment for cluster headaches involves applying the cream to the inside of the nose. This is, of course, incredibly uncomfortable to say the least. The fact that people would even consider this is attest to the intense pain that cluster headaches can cause.

The name brand, Zostrix is available over-the-counter. Please do not attempt to use intranasally without physician supervision.


  1. Laurie Said,

    April 3, 2011 @ 7:51 pm

    I have kyposis of the spin which in turn puts excess stress on the vertebra at the top of the thorasic and base of the neck. Arm work, as lifting, carrying heavy objects, or repetive movement causes a cluster like headache which is a rare form, I can’t recall the name applied. The headache can last as long as two days on one side then rotate to the other for another 2 days. I talked to the Wal-mart pharmacy man who also suffered from clusters, our pain was the same but his were the cyclic kind. He suggested Excedrin Migraine soft jells at the very first sign of the headache. This helped but only dulled the pain. I tried over the counter capsasin creme on a Qtip. I combined this with the Excedrin and have had excelent results if it is applied in the early stages of the headache. I find the longer you wait to apply the creme, the more applications it will take to resolve the headache. You can tell if another application is needed if the pain dulls but does not subside after the burning of the capsasin in your nose subsides. At this time if the headache is still present, you apply another round of creme. Usually the second dose totally rids you of the headache. I pointed out my triggers because not many people suffer from this particular kind of cluster. Perhaps the variences in the different types of clusters would affect the way a sufferer responds to the medications given by doctors. A point not many take into consideration because we are so used to putting things in tidy groups rather than thinking outside the box.

  2. admin Said,

    April 7, 2011 @ 3:03 am

    Thanks for sharing your experience and your specific triggers. There have been some additional clinical studies on the efficacy of capsaicin cream since my original post and I plan on posting a follow soon.