US research have suggested that an electronic device may help 'zap' away migraine pain before it starts, explaining that the hand-held device creates a short-lived electromagnetic field which 'interrupts' the migraine.
Researchers have explained at the American Headache Society about a device was effective in treating nausea, noise and light sensitivity, which could help in migraine. The researchers from the UK have cautioned that though the finding was interesting it would be safer to test it first in a larger study.
Migraine headaches are often described by people as seeing showers of shooting stars, zigzagging lines and flashing lights, and experiencing loss of vision, weakness, tingling or confusion. These neural disturbances are often the sign of he onset of migraine.
It was explained that the device, called TMS, delivers a strong electric current through a metal coil that creates a strong magnetic field for about one millisecond. This electrical charge is theorised to interrupt the neural phase of migraine before it starts to produce a headache. It was explained that currently patients are given painkillers or triptans as treatment, and they mainly treat the cause rather than the symptom.
The researchers said that of the 23 patients who were treated with the TMS device, 69% of them had reported to have either mild or no pain two hours after as compared with the 48% in the placebo group. And 42% of the TMS-treated patients graded their lack of symptoms as very good or excellent when compared to 26% for placebo. Majority of TMS treated patients felt that they had no noise sensitivity, while more them half felt no light sensitivity, 88% of them felt no nausea when compared with 56% who were treated with some dummy device.
Dr Yousef Mohammad, a neurologist at Ohio State University Medical Center and the lead researcher said: "Perhaps the most significant effect of using the TMS device was on the two-hour symptom assessment, with 84% of the episodes in patients using the TMS occurring without noise sensitivity. He also explained that the work functioning also improved, and there were no side effects reported.
A second study that was conducted on 12 patients found that it was possible for people to self-administer the electric current using the device at the onset of migraine. The researchers are now planning to conduct a further study on a larger number of patients.
Ann Turner, the director of the Migraine Action Association said: "The Association welcomes this new approach to migraine treatment and the results of this initial trial are encouraging. "However more research in a wider population is required before it can be considered as an addition to the treatment options available to migraine sufferers generally."
Dr Andrew Dowson, director of headache services at Kings College Hospital said that it is a very interesting concept though the device wouldn't be regarded as 'mainstream medicine'. He further stated that migraines were initially thought to be a problem with constriction of blood vessels but now a days it had become evident that neural pathways were also involved. He said, Since the triptan drugs were developed there hasn't been a big breakthrough in the treatment of migraines and this type of research is the only way we are going to find the next breakthrough. He also expressed his feelings that the results are somewhat unassuming still and it's a small study, and so he would like to see a study done in a much bigger population.