In June of 2011, at the 15th International Headache Congress in Berlin, Germany, one such electronic device maker announced the study results on the safety and efficacy of peripheral nerve stimulation (PNS) of the occipital nerve for the management of pain and disability associated with chronic migraine.
These devices are basically an advancement of the externally worn TENS units that are used to provide relief from a variety of pain sources, such as back pain, sports injury pain, general muscle pain etc. The new PNS systems deliver mild electrical pulses from an implanted device to leads placed under the skin at the back of the head, stimulating the occipital nerves.
"Many migraine patients have exhausted all current medical treatment options and often are disabled by the pain and frequency of migraine attacks," said Stephen D. Silberstein, M.D., past president of the American Headache Society, director of the Jefferson Headache Center, and the principal investigator in the study for the Genesis neurostimulation product from St. Jude's Medical Company. "Achieving a reduction in the number of days they suffer from headache and a significant improvement in their quality of life may be even more important than pain reduction alone."
The study showed that patients who received stimulation reported a 28% decrease in their number of headache days (seven less days a month). In contrast, a study of the all natural migraine prevention formula Migraine Defense from Tuliv, shows a greater than 70% average reduction in headache frequency, which is to say that Migraine Defense may be more than twice as effective as an implanted electronic device. See Tuliv Research.
What is also in the works are new ways to manage the induction of existing migraine medications into the body. One of these that is working its way through FDA approval is is from NuPathe. The Zelrix patch is a single-use patch that relies on a mild electrical current to "actively transport" the anti-migraine drug sumatriptan through the skin using a process called iontophoresis.
There are other devices made for the relief of headache pain, one of which is an apparatus which is designed to be worn on a patient's forehead to deliver controlled electrical impulses for 20-minute sessions. The developer of this device claims it gives pain relief to people suffering from migraines and cluster/tension headaches.
Another device is a hand-held machine called a noninvasive transcranial magnetic stimulator which claims to create an intense magnetic field that, when held next to the head, creates an electric current in the neurons of the brain that disrupts the migraine aura.
There are other devices including special glasses, skull caps, and stimulators that make claims to help migraineurs and may also be of help to some of the people some of the time.
I try to stay abreast of the latest research on migraines and do see some things that could hold promise for better relief of migraine pain such as the Zelrix patch mentioned above. What I don't see is new research by pharmaceutical companies exploring new ways to prevent migraines.
Unfortunately for the public in general, it is the trend of pharmaceutical companies to spend their money on market research to find new ways to sell old drugs rather than producing new drugs to alleviate existing conditions.
If you have questions about methods and devices for migraines, please contact us to visit personally with a migraine consultant.