Zapping away migraines

Researchers in the United States have unveiled a new device they claim can control the pain of migraine headaches in some sufferers with the simple touch of a button.


The migraine zapper.

The device, dubbed the ‘Migraine Zapper’, uses no drugs, no injections and has no side effects, researchers at the Ohio State University Medical Centre said recently.

‘They turn on the device and put it at the back of the brain. And in a few seconds it will have one pulse, like a tick, and then they have another pulse. And that’s it,’ said Dr. Yousef Mohammad, one of the lead researchers, in a statement.

The magnetic pulse creates a current among the nerve cells of the brain that, in turn, disrupts migraines in their ‘aura’ phase, before the onset of pain. While migraines often strike without warning, some sufferers experience an ‘aura’ stage, which includes visual disturbances or other sensations including numbness and tingling.

A small size study of the device was recently conducted testing 201 patients suffering from migraine with aura. After two hours of treatment, 39 per cent that used the device were pain-free, compared to 22 per cent of patients treated with a placebo.

But because only a small amount of migraine sufferers experience the aura phase, the device will only be useful for some. Mr. Mohammed said further study is needed to see whether the device works during other phases of migraine or among migraine patients who don’t experience aura.

In the interim, doctors agree the device may be a useful compliment to existing migraine treatments. Mainstay treatments currently include avoiding typical headache triggers, taking prescription pain killers or anti-inflammatory drugs, or taking preventative medicines that can stop migraines from occurring.

The Ohio State University statement said the US Food and Drug Administration is close to approving the device and could be on the market in a matter of months.

According to the National Headache Foundation, 30 million people in the United States suffer from migraine headaches.

In a large scale 2005 study, nine out of ten migraine sufferers said they couldn’t function normally during days in which a migraine strikes and nearly three in ten had to go to bed.

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