Are you looking for a natural cure for your cluster headaches? If you’ve ever been afflicted by this excruciatingly painful malady, you know all too well that it’s a complex puzzle to solve. The good news, though, is that an abundance of research shows that getting out into nature can drastically improve mental health. And fortunately, Bend, Oregon is one of the most beautiful, well-preserved places in the country.

Cluster Headaches 101

A cluster headache, also known as trigeminal autonomic cephalalgia, is one of the most painful medical conditions known. It’s also one of the most rare. Sufferers experience debilitating pain on one side of the head or eye, swelling and constriction of the blood vessels around the temples, watery eyes and even a runny nose. These episodes can come in clusters, sometimes happening multiple times a day, week or even month.

Why Being in Nature Is Good For You

In recent years, there has been a growing body of evidence about the positive effects of being in nature on an individual’s mental health. This concept, known as ecotherapy, claims that exposure to natural settings can help soothe the soul and ease symptoms of anxiety, depression and PTSD. In fact, research from an international study conducted in 2015 on the effects of nature on mental health found that a 20-minute walk in an outdoor setting was effective in reducing symptoms of anxiety by 20-30%.

Spending time in nature also encourages us to be more active, which in itself can have profoundly positive health effects. In fact, another study, published in the journal Preventive Medicine, found that spending time in a natural setting decreased rates of self-reported hypertension, diabetes, and respiratory conditions.

Bend’s Natural Beauty

Luckily for cluster headache sufferers, Bend, Oregon is a veritable paradise of natural beauty. All around Bend there are endless opportunities for outdoor recreation, from the general splendor of the High Desert to the crystal clear rivers and lakes. It’s the perfect place to escape into lush stands of ponderosa pine trees, or to test mettle with the challenges of the nearby Cascade Mountain Range.

From the Deschutes National Forest’s Bend Watershed and Old Mill District to the 284-mile loop of the Cascade Lakes Highway, the beauty of Central Oregon is quite literally at your fingertips. And those who are more dedicated to it can also consider the endless trails in the Santiam Alpine Wilderness area, or the deep slopes of the Three Sisters.

The Benefits of Nature for Cluster Headache Sufferers

So why should cluster headache sufferers look to nature as a means of coping? Well, researchers have found that spending time in nature can have a positive effect on one’s mood and coping abilities. Coastal studies have shown that those who spend time in nature are happier, more active, and recharge faster than those who do not. And a study published in the Journal of Natural Medicine found that even a few minutes of exposure to the outdoors can lead to significantly reduced levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.

These relaxing properties of nature can serve as an excellent distraction from the throbbing pain of a cluster headache. It can help to ease the mental, emotional and physical fatigue that often accompany a headache, as well as stimulate circulation and reduce inflammation. Just the simple act of sitting or walking near trees, water or fresh air can have a calming effect.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to dealing with a condition as painful as cluster headaches, it’s important to be honest and open-minded about the solutions. The science clearly shows that outdoor time has profound positive effects for mental health. And Bend, Oregon, with its endless opportunities for recreation in the High Desert, is a prime location for anyone looking to spend some time with nature. Whether it’s through hiking, trail running, or just sitting and taking a deep breath, the benefits of the outdoors can be an excellent tool for anyone suffering from cluster headaches.