07 February 2013

Nerve Stimulator Decreases Migraine Attacks

A nerve stimulator worn in the forehead may lessen the frequency of migraine attacks by as much as 30 percent.

A migraine is a severe headache felt as a throbbing pain at the front or on one side of the head.

Migraines bring about a heightened sensitivity to sound and light, speech problems, nausea, and auras. Auras are symptoms that affect the senses such as flashes of light, blind spots or a tingling sensation in the arm or leg. For those who experience auras, this usually happens before the onset of a migraine attack.

Although the pain is usually associated with a migraine, there are instances where the symptoms of a migraine are present, most specially migraine auras, but the pain is not felt. This is called a silent migraine.

The cause of a migraine is still unknown but it may involve the Central Nervous System (CNS) and how nerve signals and other stimuli trigger chemical and neurological events in the brain. It is believed that migraines have something to do with brain's vascular system which affect the blood flow in the brain and its surrounding tissues.

Electrical Stimulation Lowers Frequency of Migraine Attacks

Wearing a nerve stimulator for 20 minutes a day may be a new option for migraine sufferers, according to new research published in the February 6, 2013, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

The stimulator is placed on the forehead, and it delivers electrical stimulation to the supraorbital nerve.

For the study, 67 people who had an average of four migraine attacks per month were followed for one month with no treatment. Then they received either the stimulation 20 minutes a day for three months or sham stimulation, where they wore the device but the stimulation given was at levels too low to have any effect.

Those who received the stimulation had fewer days with migraine in the third month of treatment compared to the first month with no treatment. The number of days with migraine decreased from 6.9 days to 4.8 days per month. The number did not change for those who received the sham treatment.

Video: Migraine

The study also looked at the number of people who had 50 percent or higher reduction in the number of days with migraine in a month. That number was 38 percent for those who had the stimulation compared to 12 percent of those who received the sham treatment.

There were no side effects from the stimulation.

"These results are exciting, because the results were similar to those of drugs that are used to prevent migraine, but often those drugs have many side effects for people, and frequently the side effects are bad enough that people decide to quit taking the drug," said study author Jean Schoenen, MD, PhD, of Liège University in Belgium and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.


American Academy of Neurology
University of Liège
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