If you are one of the 37 million Americans who suffer from migraines, you know the symptoms all too well: pounding pain in a specific area in your head, nausea, and sensitivity to light and sound. You continually reach for the Advil to relieve your pain, but it doesn’t always work, or sometimes even causes additional discomfort from side effects. Some other prescription anti-migraine drugs have side effects that numerous patients can’t handle. For example, pregnant women, women who certainly require relief from migraines, often cannot take some of these drugs because some cause birth defects and other potential side effects of the medicines. Shouldn’t there be a more effective, less risky solution? Now there is for adult migraine sufferers and hopefully children as well soon.
Just in the last year, the FDA has approved two alternative treatments for migraines in adults: the Cerena Transcranial Magnetic Stimulator and the Cefaly transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation device. Because these devices are not ingested like so many other medications you may be used to taking, they do not have the same side effects associated with anti-migraine drugs. One of the only side effects is a rare patient developing minor skin irritation.
With such scientific, scary-sounding names, these devices need some quick explaining. The Cerena Transcranial Magnetic Stimulator is the first medical device granted marketing by the FDA to relieve migraines preceded by an aura, a vision disturbance signaling the onset of a migraine. Migraine sufferers will know how useful this is because you can actually relieve pain before the migraine even sets in. This device, which you hold to the back of your head, emits a painless magnetic pulse (less than one second long) to stimulate the part of the brain responsible for the aura. The Cefaly transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) device also can be used before the migraine even occurs. You can use it daily, and it has been shown to reduce migraine days. Anyone with migraine experience will surely like the sound of that, since one less migraine day is one more day you can spend enjoying life. This device is small and battery powered. Resembling a headband, the TENS emits an electrical current to stimulate a nerve in the head associated with migraines.
These are new and exciting solutions to pain for millions of Americans suffer from migraine. Adult patients now have more options in treatment, options that could be more effective and have fewer side effects. It should be noted that these devices’ safety and effectiveness has not been tested in children or pregnant women…yet. Hopefully these devices will soon be available for children who suffer from the migraine curse as well.
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Written collaboratively by Carson Blaylock and Paul Smolen M.D.