Minimal electric shocks can significantly alleviate pain in migraines

Minimal electric shocks can significantly alleviate pain in migraines

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Smartphone controlled device could bring pain relief to migraine sufferers
About ten percent of the population have migraines. Migraines suffer from a periodic, severe headache, which is often accompanied by nausea and vomiting. Researchers found that pain could be reduced simply by light electric shocks.

Scientists from the Rambam Healthcare Campus and Technion Faculty of Medicine in Haifa found in an investigation that a smartphone-controlled device can give light electric shocks to people with migraines, which can then reduce the pain of migraines. The doctors published the results of their study in the journal "Neurology".

Device stimulates the nerves under the skin in the arm
The experimental device consists of a patch with a battery, electrodes and a computer chip. This is able to communicate wirelessly with mobile devices. The device was designed to stimulate nerves under the skin in the arm and prevent pain signals from reaching the brain, the researchers explain.

New treatment is more convenient and more discreet
"All previous stimulation treatments have been head related," says author Dr. David Yarnitsky. "We have now worked on stimulation from a more distant part of the body, which makes treatment more convenient and discreet," added the expert.

Subjects were predominantly female
The current study included 71 people with episodic migraines. These suffered about two to eight migraine attacks a month. Those affected did not take any medication to prevent the episodes of migraines for at least two months before the examination, the experts explain. The typical subjects were in their mid to late 40s and had about five migraines a month, the majority of whom were female. During the study period, sufferers suffered a total of 299 migraine attacks.

Device was used for a period of 20 minutes after a migraine attack
As part of the study, participants should use the device for a period of 20 minutes immediately after the onset of migraines. They were also prohibited from taking medication for migraines two hours after an attack, the doctors explain.

How was the electrical stimulation in the study?
For the experiment, the researchers programmed the devices to either deliver a very low frequency placebo stimulation or to deliver one of four levels of active electrical stimulation treatment. The four active treatment programs were set with a pulse frequency of 80 to 120 Hertz (Hz) and pulse widths of 200, 150, 100 and 50.

Results with a lower pulse width
Using the lowest pulse width, the researchers said there was at least 50 percent pain reduction in 64 percent of people in the active treatment groups two hours after treatment, compared to 26 percent of people in the placebo group.

Results at the highest level of stimulation
At the highest stimulation level, 58 percent of participants who started with moderate to severe pain reported that they had little or no pain after the treatment. This effect also occurred in 24 percent of the subjects in the placebo group. It also turned out that the timing of treatment had an important impact, the experts add.

Device should be used immediately after a migraine attack
When people used the device within 20 minutes of the onset of migraines, there was an average pain reduction of 47 percent, compared to 25 percent when the device was used later. The technology, known as transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), has been tested in other devices for migraine pain for decades.

More research is needed
Further larger studies must now show that the device is an alternative for people with an intolerance to migraine medication. It is also necessary to determine whether it is an option if patients use the device in addition to medication to experience sufficient pain relief. (as)

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