Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Migraines & Headaches Health Center

Font Size

Magnetic Pulses May 'Zap' Migraine Pain

Study Shows Portable Device Can Zap Migraine Headache Pain
WebMD Health News

June 27, 2008 -- A lightweight, handheld device helps migraine sufferers zap away pain, sometimes within two hours, according to a new study.

Called a transcranial magnetic stimulation device (TMS), it transmits magnetic pulses that interrupt the "hyper-excitability" of neurons in the brain, which some experts believe is to blame for launching the migraine.

"This is based on a new understanding of how migraines start," says Yousef Mohammad, MD, a professor of neurology and principal investigator of the study at Ohio State University Medical Center, Columbus. The findings will be presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Headache Society in Boston.

About 35 million Americans suffer from migraines, according to the American Headache Society.

Migraine Zapper vs. 'Sham' Treatment

Mohammad and his colleagues randomly assigned 201 migraine sufferers, ages 18 to 68, to a treatment group or a sham treatment group at 16 different study centers.

Members of both groups took home the device, which is now portable and weighs about 3 pounds. It looks like a box with two handles on either side.

Participants didn't know if they had the device that emitted magnetic pulses or the devices that looked identical and buzzed and vibrated like the real machine but did not emit the pulses.

All had been diagnosed with migraine with aura -- the changes in vision and light sensitivity and other symptoms that about one in five migraine patients experience before the headache pain. They had a history of one to eight migraines with aura per month. To enter the study, they couldn't overuse headache medicines.

When they noticed the aura coming on, they were told to grasp the handles and apply the device to the back of their heads, then to administer two pulses by pushing a button twice.

They recorded their responses and pain levels in an electronic diary when they treated themselves and again at 30 minutes, one hour, two hours, 24 hours, and 48 hours later. A total of 164 patients finished the study, recording their responses for up to three attacks over three months.

At the two-hour mark, 39% of the patients who used the real machine were pain free, compared with just 22% using the sham treatment device. The difference is very significant, Mohammad tells WebMD.

Today on WebMD

Business woman with hand on face and eyes closed
What aura looks like, triggers, and more.
woman with migraine
Get the truth about migraines.
headache in the bedroom
Keep headaches from ruining your sex life.
woman with hands on head
Test your knowledge of triggers, types, and more.
woman with migraine
drinking coffee
Migraines Headaches Basics
acupuncture needles in woman's back
Tired young man
spraying perfume
man with a headache
headache in the bedroom