Oxygen therapy for migraine

Oxygen therapy was first used at the Mayo Clinic in 1939 for migraine. The treatment used was 100% high flow oxygen. It is thought that migraines are in part caused by a low level of oxygen in the blood which is caused by constriction of blood vessels. Oxygen helps relieve migraines and cluster headaches by causing dilation of the blood vessels. It has been found to be helpful for headache and at the time migraines and cluster headaches were not well-differentiated.
There are 2 different ways of delivering oxygen for headache treatment include hyperbaric oxygen chamber treatment and normobaric oxygen delivery. Hyperbaric oxygen chamber treatment involves patient receiving treatment within an enclosed chamber with 100% oxygen that is free-flowing. Normobaric oxygen delivery involves of 100% oxygen through a face mask or nasal cannula at 7-9 for around 10-20 minutes.

Research of oxygen for migraines is limited at this time. A small study by National Institutes of Health, examined participants with episodic migraine with aura that were provided oxygen via a partial rebreather. Among the participants, pain freedom at 2 hours was obtained by 60% receiving 100% oxygen compared to placebo group.

There is more research available regarding oxygen and cluster headaches.

If you would like more information about oxygen therapy for the treatment of headaches, discuss with your health care provider.

By: Brooke Steiger, NP