A new device marketed for relieving migraine headaches and approved by the FDA could eliminate headache pain within two hours for some patients, but others may have to wait as long as an excruciating 24 hours, and many may not be helped at all. Unfortunately, the treatment doesn’t address the debilitating symptoms that often go along with migraines including nausea, sensitivity to light and sensitivity to sound, the FDA noted. The device provides transcranial magnetic stimulation. To deal with a headache, patients have to hold the device to the back of the head and push a button. This results in two magnetic pulses that last less than a millisecond each, 30 seconds apart. In a study of the effectiveness of the stimulator, 38 percent of patients reported relief within two hours, 34 percent were headache-free 24 hours later, and 28 percent were not helped at all. Of patients who received a sham device, 17 percent reported relief within two hours and 10 percent within 24 hours, the FDA said. The most common side effect of the new treatment is dizziness. Patients with metal implants or devices with magnetic components and those with epilepsy or a personal or family history of seizures should not use the device, the FDA warned.
My take? This new approach to treating migraines isn’t perfect, which is also true of the drugs available to relieve the headaches. Nothing works perfectly for all migraine patients. In addition to identifying and avoiding triggers for the headaches, I suggest eliminating caffeine from your diet so you can use coffee or other forms of caffeine as an effective and immediate migraine treatment. Drink one or two cups of strong coffee at the first sign of an attack, then lie down in a dark, quiet room. I also recommend considering preventive measures such as biofeedback; taking feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium), 100-150 mg daily; coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10); 400 mg daily of riboflavin (the high dose needs to be prescribed by a physician); or the herb butterbur (50-100 mg twice daily with meals).
Richard B. Lipton et al, “Single-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation for acute treatment of migraine with aura: a randomised, double-blind, parallel-group, sham-controlled trial,” The Lancet Neurology, doi:10.1016/S1474-4422(10)70054-5