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

Portable Device May Relieve Migraine Pain

Study Shows sTMS Eases Pain in People Who Have Migraine With Aura
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

March 3, 2010 -- A handheld device that magnetically zaps pain may be a promising new treatment for patients with a common type of migraine.

Compared to patients who got sham treatments, more patients treated with the experimental device, known as single-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation (sTMS), were pain-free two hours later.

About 35 million Americans have migraines, according to the American Headache Society, and about 20% to 30% of these patients have headaches that are preceded by visual or other sensory warning signs.

Known medically as migraine with aura, aura-associated warning symptoms may include seeing flashing lights or zigzag patterns, blind spots or blindness in one or both eyes, a prickling feeling on the skin, and even visual and auditory hallucinations.

Drugs commonly used in the treatment of severe headaches are generally not considered effective in the aura phase of migraine attacks, and many patients want to treat their migraines without using drugs, neurologist and headache specialist Richard B. Lipton, MD, tells WebMD.

Lipton directs the Montefiore Headache Center at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx.

"There is a lot of unmet medical need out there in the treatment of migraine," he says. "Some people don't tolerate the drug treatments very well and others just want to avoid them."

Zapping Migraine Pain

Lipton and colleagues assessed the safety and effectiveness of a portable sTMS device in a study involving 201 migraine-with-aura patients treated at 16 medical centers across the country.

About half the patients were given the sTMS device to use at home. The rest were given an identical looking device that emitted no magnetic pulses.

The idea behind sTMS is that the magnetic pulses disrupt the electrical events in the brain that lead to migraines.

Prior to entering the study, the patients had between one and eight migraines with aura per month.

They were instructed to apply the devices to the back of their heads when they felt a headache coming on, and to administer two pulses.

The patients were also asked to record their pain levels immediately following treatment, and then again 30 minutes, one hour, two hours, 24 hours, and 48 hours later.

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