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Melatonin Relieves Stabbing Headaches

Melatonin supplementation may lead to relief of frequent stabbing headaches in three cases in a recent study. For example, in one case, a woman had a reduction in the frequency of stabbing head pains from two per day to none within 24 hours of starting treatment with 9 mg of melatonin per day. Continuing to take melatonin, she remained pain-free at a four-month follow-up.

Stabbing headaches, also known as "jab and jolts" or "ice-pick headaches," are stabs of sharp and severe pain in any part of the head, usually lasting one second or less. Each stabbing pain can be severe enough to cause momentary disability. Stabbing headaches can occur up to 50 times in a day, with episodes as infrequent as once or twice in a year or as frequent as every day.

Indomethacin, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicine, is the only treatment known to prevent stabbing headaches; however, it can cause serious adverse side effects, and people with kidney disease or using blood-thinning medications are not able to take indomethacin.

Melatonin is a hormone produced in the pineal gland (located in the brain). In addition to regulating sleep rhythms and other biorhythms associated with light and dark cycles, it has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Melatonin is used to treat sleep disorders, and studies have suggested that it is helpful in treating some cancers, cluster headaches, and headaches associated with sleep disorders.

The three reported cases suggest that melatonin is a possible treatment for frequent stabbing headaches, which could make it an attractive alternative to indomethacin because it has few adverse side effects. Taking melatonin at bedtime eliminates the concern about drowsiness, a relatively common side effect of melatonin.

Melatonin is a powerful hormone. We recommend that you consult with one of our physicians before taking melatonin for headaches or any other health condition.

Source: Neurology, 2004;16:865-6