A neurostimulation device that looks like a space age tiara could be a new option for migraine sufferers. Wearing the stimulator for just 20 minutes a day reduces the number of migraines just as effectively as migraine drugs or other types of migraine therapy, according to a small study published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
Researchers enrolled 67 patients in the study who suffer at least two migraines a month and were being treated at headache centers in Belgium. Half of the patients were treated with Cefaly, a neurostimulator placed on the forehead that delivers electrical stimulation to the supraorbital nerve. The remaining patients received a sham or placebo treatment, using a similar looking device.
By the third month of treatment, patients who received neurostimulation had fewer days with migraine. The number of days they suffered migraine attacks decreased from an average of 6.9 days to 4.8 days per month. The number did not change for those who received the sham treatment. No side effects were reported by either group.
“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, of Liège University in Belgium and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.
Patients in the neurostimulation group had slightly less severe headaches and their use of anti-migraine drugs declined significantly. About 1 patient out of 5 was dissatisfied after neurostimulation, compared to 1 out of 2 in the sham-stimulated group.
About 31 million adult Americans suffer from migraine. It affects three times as many women as men. In addition to headache pain and nausea, migraine can also cause vomiting, blurriness or visual disturbances, and sensitivity to light and sound.
The Belgian study was supported by the Walloon Region, Department of Economy, Employment and Research in Belgium.
The Cefaly stimulator is made by the STX-Med company in Belgium.
A company produced video on the stimulator can be seen here: