Effective relief

A novel electronic device designed to ‘zap’ away migraine pain before it starts has proved to provide effective relief for sufferers.


A novel electronic device designed to ‘zap’ away migraine pain before it starts has proved to provide effective relief for sufferers, according to a study conducted at The Ohio State University Medical Center.


Results of the study, which will be presented this Friday at the annual American Headache Society meeting in Boston, found that the experimental device is safe and effective in eliminating headaches when administered during the onset of the migraine.


The noninvasive transcranial magnetic stimulator (TMS) device interrupts the aura phase of the migraine, often described as electrical storms in the brain, before they lead to headaches.


Migraine sufferers often describe ‘seeing’ showers of shooting stars, zigzagging lines and flashing lights, and experiencing loss of vision, weakness, tingling or confusion, followed by intense throbbing head pain, nausea and vomiting.


Previous studies, conducted at Ohio State, using a heavy and bulky TMS device, reduced headache pain. To expedite treatment at home, a portable hand-held device was developed and tested.


‘Stimulation with magnetic pulses from the portable TMS device proved effective for the migraine patients,’ said Dr Yousef Mohammad, a neurologist at Ohio State’s Medical Center.  ‘Because of the lack of adverse events in this trial and the established safety of the TMS device, this is a promising treatment for migraines with aura.’


The TMS device sends a strong electric current through a metal coil, which creates an intense magnetic field for about one millisecond. This magnetic pulse, when held against a person’s head, creates an electric current in the neurons of the brain, interrupting the aura before it results in a throbbing headache.


‘The device’s pulses are painless and safe,’ Mohammad said. ‘Since almost all migraine drugs have some side effects, and patients are prone to addiction from narcotics, or developing headaches from frequent use of over-the-counter medication, the TMS device holds great promise for migraine sufferers.’


Of the 164 patients involved in the clinical trial, 39 percent were pain free 2 hours after receiving treatment, compared to 22 percent in a group that received ‘sham’ pulses.