Cluster Headache Glossary
Table of Contents


ANS: Autonomic Nervous System.

Ablative Surgery: Surgical excision or cutting of tissue, such as a nerve tissue; nerve ablation by cauterization may allow for eventual regrowth of tissue.

Abortive Medication: A treatment intended to interrupt an attack of head pain.

Acid Indigestion: Burning sensation in the chest, behind breastbone, usually resulting from regurgitation of gastric acid.

Acupressure: Alternative therapy of applying pressure to specific points on the body to alleviate pain, fatigue, nausea, depression, etc.

Acupuncture: Alternative therapy of pricking the skin with needles at specific points to alleviate pain, anxiety, etc.

Acute: Intense, or severe; also, of abrupt onset with short duration.

Acute Pain: Pain with an often abrupt onset and intense degree, often characterized in duration as lasting days to months.

Acute Treatment: Immediate care for an urgent condition or presentation of symptoms.

Addiction: To be compelled to something that is physically or psychologically habit-forming.

Adjuvant Medication: An assisting or auxiliary medication meant to aid or enhance another.

Algology: The study of pain.

Allodynia: Pain from a stimulus not normally provoking discomfort, such as skin which is painful to a light touch.

Alternative Medicine: A term used for healthcare treatments and practices not typically included in mainstream medical science.

Analgesic: A substance or action for relieving pain without eliminating sensation.

Anesthetic: A substance or action for relieving pain by temporarily eliminating sensation.

Antibiotic: A substance for killing or inhibiting growth of certain microorganisms.

Antidepressant: A drug typically used to treat depression.

Anxiety: A sense of worry, unease, or disquiet, often imminent.

Anxiolytic: A drug used to treat anxiety.

Ataxia: Failure or irregularity of muscle coordination.

Aura: A perceptual disturbance, often visual, which may precede a headache, typically migraine.

Autoimmune: Relating to the body's immune response to its own tissues, cells, etc.

Autonomic Nervous System: The part of the nervous system responsible for regulation of internal organs and glands.


b.i.d: Twice daily

Bilateral: Affecting both sides.

Biofeedback: A method of affecting bodily functions through training, assisted by electronic monitoring.

bol.: As a single dose.

Breakthrough Pain: Pain experienced despite preventive measures, or prior to a maintenance dose of medication.

Bridging Medication: A short-term, transitional medication used while developing a preventative medication therapy.


C-: as first letter abbreviation meaning Chronic.

cf: With food.

CH: Cluster Headache.

CNS: Central Nervous System.

CT Scan: Computed Tomography Scan.

Calcium Channel Blocker: Medicine used to slow the entry of calcium into cells of the heart and blood vessels, relaxing blood vessels and reducing workload of the heart; used to medicate for hypertension, panic attacks, and certain headaches.

Capsaicin: Compound derived from hot peppers; used to alleviate pain by various delivery methods.

Causalgia: Burning sensation due to injury of peripheral nerve.

Cauterization: To burn or sear tissue.

Central Nervous System: The nerve tissues controlling the body; the brain and spinal cord.

Central Pain: Pain caused by dysfunction or lesions in the central nervous system.

Cervicogenic Headache: Head pain generated by injury, excessive stress, or other dysfunction to the neck or spine.

Chi Kung: training methods to assist in physical and mental health, ordered to development and equilibrium of the body's 'essential energy.'

Chronic: Recurring or persisting over a protracted length of time; in the example of cluster headache, regular attacks for over a year with less than one month interval of remission.

Chronic Pain: Pain which is present constantly or which returns regularly with minimal interval.

Cluster Headache: Severe, unilateral head pain lasting from several minutes to several hours, occurring repeatedly over time in clusters; also known as suicide headache, alarm clock headache, Horton's cephalalgia, ciliary neuralgia, erythromelalgia of the head, erythroprosopalgia of Bing, hemicrania angioparalyticia, histaminic cephalalgia, migrainous neuralgia, petrosal neuralgia, Sluder's neuralgia, sphenopalatine neuralgia, and vidian neuralgia.

Complementary Medicine: A term for alternative medicine used to assist or as an auxiliary to more science-based treatment.

Computed Tomography Scan: A method of medical imaging displaying the body in cross-section, using ultra-sound or X-ray.


DBS: Deep Brain Stimulation.

DHE: Dihydroergotamine.

Deep Brain Stimulation: An electrical charge delivered inside the brain via small implant device to modify abnormal electrical impulse, the implant also being known as a brain pacemaker.

Depression: Intense feelings of dejection, hopelessness, or inadequacy; despondency.

Dihydroergotamine: An ergot-based medicine often used in infusion therapy to break an episode and also used for acute relief of a cluster attack; this is the only medicine considered both preventative and abortive.

Dizziness: A sensation of being light-headed, or experiencing a loss of balance, or a whirling sensation.

Drug: Any substance used for its physiological effect against illness when introduced to the body.

Dysesthesia: Distortion of a sense, especially touch, such as light contact causing pain.

Dysphoria: Anxiety or intense, general sense of dissatisfaction.


E-: as first letter abbreviation meaning Episodic.

ECG: Electrocardiogram.

EEG: Electroencephalogram.

EKG: Electrocardiogram.

Efficacy: The effectiveness of a drug or treatment.

Electrocardiogram: A measurement of the electrical activity of the heart.

Electroencephalogram: A measurement of the electrical activity of the brain.

Episodic: Characterized as lasting only days to months in duration and potentially recurring.

Ergotamine: An ergot (fungus) derivative used to treat migraine and other headache types.

Euphoria: A feeling of joy or intense happiness.


Fatigue: Exhaustion or extreme weariness.

Fibromyalgia: A chronic condition of widespread pain, fatigue, and localized tenderness.


GON: Greater Occipital Nerve.

GP: General Practitioner.

Ganglion: A bundle of nerve tissue outside the central nervous system.

General Anesthetic: Anesthesia agent intended for the whole body, involving unconsciousness.


HC: Hemicrania Continua.

HPPD: Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder.

h.s.: At bedtime.

Hallucinogen: A drug capable of causing hallucinations.

Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder: A disorder characterized by persistent sensory disturbances consistent with hallucinogens to which one has been previously exposed.

Headache: A lasting head pain.

Heartburn: see Acid Indigestion.

Hemicrania Continua: A relentless, unilateral headache.

Hormone: A chemical used by the body to control activities of cells or organs.

Hyperesthesia: Excessive physical sensitivity.

Hyperalgesia: Excessive sensitivity to pain.

Hyperpathia: Abnormally disagreeable or painful response to typically innocuous stimuli.

Hypertension: Abnormally high blood pressure.

Hypoalgesia: Decreased sensitivity to typically painful stimuli.

Hypoesthesia: Decreased sensitivity.

Hypothalamus: Region of the brain acting as the main control center for the autonomic nervous system, controlling hunger, thirst, sleep, circadian cycles, etc.; cluster headache has been linked to functions of this region.


Ice Pick Headache: see Idiopathic Stabbing Headache.

Idiopathic Stabbing Headache: Brief, repetitive stabbing pains, usually in the temporoparietal region of the head; also known as ice pick headache.

Incident Pain: Pain resulting from the act of performing a specific activity.

inj.: Injection.

Insomnia: Habitual sleeplessness.

Intractable: Uncontrolled or not easily controlled by medication.

Integrative Medicine: The combination of alternative and evidence-based therapies to create an interrelated treatment.

Ipsilateral: Affecting the same side.

Ischemia: An inadequate supply of blood to an organ or part of the body.


Lacrimation: Shedding of tears, especially an excessive flow.

Lancinating: A sharp pain sensation, as if caused by a cutting, piercing or stabbing action.

Lancing Sensation: see Lancinating.

Local Anesthetic: Anesthesia agent intended for a limited area of the body.


MOH: Medication Overuse Headache.

MRI: Magnetic Resonance Imaging.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging: A method of medical imaging using magnetism and radio waves to create pictures of the inside of the body.

Maxillary: Relating to the region of the upper jaw and cheek.

Medication Overuse Headache: caused by frequent use of headache medication.

Meditation: A practice of concentrated focus or mental contemplation to increase awareness, reflection, or sense of detachment.

Migraine: A typically unilateral, throbbing headache, often accompanied by distorted vision and nausea.

Misophonia: Decreased tolerance to particular sounds.


N.M.T.: Not More Than.

NRB: Non-rebreather Mask.

NSAID: Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drug.

N.T.E.: No To Exceed.

Narcotic: A drug, potentially addictive, affecting behavior, producing insensibility or stupor.

Nausea: A feeling of revulsion; an inclination to vomit.

nebul.: A spray.

Nerve: Cord-like bundle of fibers in the body transmitting impulses of sensation to the central nervous system.

Nerve Block: An injection of local anesthetic, along with epinephrine, steroid, and/or opioid, onto or near a particular nerve for temporary relief from pain.

Neuralgia: Pain along the course of a nerve, especially the head, typically occurring at intervals.

Neuritis: Inflammation of a peripheral nerve.

Neuropathic Pain: Pain resulting from dysfunction or damage in the nervous system.

Neuropathy: Dysfunction of peripheral nerves.

Neuroreceptor: A site on a nerve cell which receives impulses.

Neurotransmitter: A substance which conveys an impulse from one nerve cell to another nerve or other tissue.

Nociceptive Pain: Pain caused by excessive stimulation (injury) to peripheral nerves.

Nociceptor: A receptor for pain caused by injury.

noct.: At night.

Non-rebreather Mask: A device for delivering high flow oxygen, including a reservoir bag, and with a one-way valve for exhaled air.

Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drug: A drug not containing steroids, for reducing inflammation, and as an analgesic, such as acetaminophen/paracetamol, aspirin, ibuprofen, indomethacin, naproxen, etc.

Noxious stimulus: An event capable of damaging tissue.


O2: Oxygen.

ONS: Occipital Nerve Stimulation.

Occipital Nerve Stimulation: An electrical charge delivered to the occipital nerve via small implant device to alleviate head pain; typically a minimally invasive, outpatient procedure.

Off-label Use: The prescribing of a medication for other than primary indication; cluster headache medications are typically prescribed as for off-label use.

Ointment: An oil-based preparation used topically on skin for medicinal purposes.

Opioid: A pain reducing, psychoactive compound, either natural or synthetic; potentially addictive.

Oxygen: A reactive gas which can be used medicinally to abort cluster headache; when administered at high flow, for example fifteen liters per minute [15 lpm] and using a non-rebreather mask, oxygen has been shown to be 80% effective in aborting a cluster headache attack within fifteen minutes.


p.c.: After meals.

PCP: Primary Care Physician.

PF: Pain Free.

PFDAN: Pain Free Days And Nights.

PH: Paroxysmal Hemicrania.

PNS: Peripheral Nervous System.

prn: As needed.

PSNS: Parasympathetic Nervous System.

PTSD: Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.

Pain: An internal alarm of unpleasant, oppressive, sensory information.

Pain Threshold: The point, beyond which, sensory stimulus becomes pain.

Pain Tolerance: The point, beyond which, pain stimulus becomes unbearable.

Palliative Care: Specialized treatment directed toward the prevention and relief of suffering in those with chronic, incurable, or terminal illness, typically utilizing multiple disciplines of healthcare.

Paralysis: Loss of the ability to move or act; loss of the ability to function.

Parasympathetic Nervous System: The part of the autonomic nervous system responsible for stimulating the rest-and-digest type activities.

Paresthesia: Abnormal sensation, such as burning, prickling, or tingling.

Paroxysm: A sudden attack or seizure.

Paroxysmal Hemicrania: Severe, unilateral, multiple attacks of head pain typically lasting approximately ten to fifteen minutes each.

Peripheral Nerve: A nerve which conveys impulses between the central nervous system and some other part of the body.

Peripheral Nervous System: The nervous system beyond the brain and spinal cord.

Peripheral Neuropathy: Damage to nerves of the peripheral nervous system.

Pharmacotherapy: Medical treatment with the use of drugs.

Phonophobia: Excessive sensitivity to sound.

Photophobia: Excessive sensitivity to light.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: A condition characterized by symptoms including anxiety and uncontrollable thoughts which refer back to a previously experienced, terrifying event.

Potency: The strength of a drug within a particular dosage.

Premonitory Symptom: A telltale indication or warning sign of an oncoming illness or attack.

Prescription: An order of authorization and requisition for a medical treatment.

Preventative Medication: A treatment used for regular maintenance to inhibit the presentation of a disease or disorder.

Preventive Treatment: Care focused on inhibiting disease or presentation of symptoms and on health maintenance.

Primary Headache: A headache not caused by another condition.

Prophylactic Medication: see Preventative Medication.

Proprioception: The perception of the body's, or body parts', location, movement, and orientation.

Psychedelic: Describing a psychoactive substance affecting sensory perception and information processing; causing hallucinations.

Psychoactive: Affecting the mind.

Psychogenic Pain: Physical pain generated as a result of psychological factors.

Psychological Approach: In treatment, an approach to alleviate a condition focused on mental, emotional, or behavioral elements.

Ptosis: Drooping of the eyelid.

Pulsating: A throbbing, repeating pain, often directly linked to heartbeat.

Pyrosis: see Acid Indigestion.


q.d.: Every day.

q.i.d.: Four times a day.

Qigong: see Chi Kung.


Rebound Headache: caused by frequent use of headache medication; see Medication Overuse Headache.

Referred Pain: Pain felt in a part of the body other than where the original stimulus occurs.

Refractory: Resistant to treatment; see Intractable.

Rehabilitation: To restore to heath or proper functioning.

Residual Headache: A prolonged soreness in the general location of a cluster headache, lasting beyond the initial attack, potentially debilitating; see Shadow.

Rhizotomy: A surgical method of severing a nerve for complete and typically permanent interruption of signal.


SNS: Sympathetic Nervous System.

SPG: Sphenopalatine Ganglion.

SUNA: Short-lasting Unilateral Neuralgiform headache attacks with cranial Autonomic symptoms, similar to SUNCT, but with less prominent conjunctival injection and lacrimation.

SUNCT: Short-lasting Unilateral Neuralgiform Headache with Conjunctival Injection and Tearing.

Scintillating: A visual effect of twinkling or giving off sparks.

Scotoma: A partial loss or blinded area of vision.

Sedative: A substance prescribed to induce the slowing of body functions and creates drowsiness, such as barbiturates and benzodiazepines, or as a by-product, certain pain-killers, muscle relaxants, or alcohol; potentially addictive.

Selective Sound Sensitivity Syndrome: see Misophonia.

Sensation: A physical perception which brings information to the brain; a physical feeling.

Shadow: A somewhat milder, though continuous and potentially debilitating, diffuse or bruised sensation of pain located in the general area of the pain of an attack; common with cluster headache.

Short-lasting Unilateral Neuralgiform Headache with Conjunctival Injection and Tearing: Headache characterized by severe bursts of unilateral pain, typically near eye or temple, usually peaking within seconds, lasting for minutes, and occurring several times an hour.

Sinus: A cavity within bone, especially the skull where it connects with nasal passages.

Sleep Paralysis: An event occurring just before or after sleep, characterized by a temporary inability to move.

Somatic: Relating to the body.

Somatosensory: Relating to sensations which can occur anywhere in the body.

Somesthesia: Sensations of the body, including the skin and internal parts.

Sphenopalatine Ganglion: A parasympathetic nerve bundle branching off the maxillary nerve, running along the upper jaw and cheekbone; numbing of the ganglion through access of adjacent mucous membrane at the back of the nasal cavity may provide relief for some headache types.

Suffering: The condition of distress or aversion to poorly tolerated circumstance. Sometimes used as a distinction to pain, with pain referring to physical aversion and suffering referring to mental aversion.

Sympathetic Nervous System: The part of the autonomic nervous system responsible for stimulating the fight-or-flight response.

Symptom: A physical or mental indicator of a condition or disease.

Syncope: A loss of consciousness associated with a drop in blood pressure.

Syndrome: A collection of symptoms characteristic of a specific condition or disorder.

Synesthesia: A perception of information with a sense not normally associated with a stimulus, such as seeing sound, or tasting color.


TAC: Trigeminal Autonomic Cephalgia.

TENS: Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation.

t.i.d.: Three times a day.

TMD: Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction.

TMJ: Temporomandibular Joint.

TN: Trigeminal Neuralgia.

Tai Chi: A system of physical exercise for improving health and focus, involving possibly vigorous, yet slow, meditative motion.

Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction: A term for various conditions of pain and dysfunction of the muscles of chewing and the joint connecting the lower jaw to the skull.

Terebrating: A boring or piercing pain.

Therapy: The treatment of a disease or disorder.

Thermoreception: The response to heat or cold stimulus.

Topical: Relating to a localized area of the surface/skin of the body.

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation: A technique of applying electric current through the skin to nerves non-invasively, to treat pain.

Tranquilizer: A substance which induces a calmness or soothing effect.

Trigeminal Autonomic Cephalgia: The category of primary headaches characterized by unilateral pain involving the trigeminal nerve in association with ipsilateral autonomic features in the head; including cluster headache, hemicrania continua, paroxysmal hemicrania, SUNCT, and SUNA.

Trigeminal Neuralgia: A nerve disorder of the trigeminal nerve characterized by typically unilateral bursts of severe, shocking or stabbing pain to the side of the face, lasting from seconds to minutes.

Trigger: A cause for an event such as a headache, burst of pain, or seizure; typically some form of sensory stimulus, such as strobing light, pungent odor, specific food, etc.

Trigger Point: An area of the body hypersensitive to stimulus.

Triptan: A class of tryptamine-based drugs, agonists of serotonin receptors, used typically as an abortive treatment for headaches such as migraine and cluster headache. 

Twilight Anesthetic: A mild dose of general anesthesia, presenting lesser risks and sometimes employed for simple medical procedures.  


Unilateral: Affecting one side.


Vertigo: A sensation of whirling; a loss of balance or upright orientation.


Withdrawal: A physical or psychological disturbance as a result of cessation of the habitual use of a drug.


Yoga: A system of physical exercise for improving health and focus, involving possibly vigorous stretching and balancing.


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