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Migraines & Headaches Health Center

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Nerve-Stimulating Device Might Ease Migraines

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Alan Mozes

HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Migraine sufferers in search of a non-medicinal alternative for relief may be encouraged by new Belgian research that suggests that 20 minutes a day of nerve stimulation might cut back on the frequency of attacks.

The finding stems from a small study involving 67 migraine patients. All participants were outfitted with a wearable device called a "supraorbital transcutaneous stimulator," or STS, which was placed on the forehead and designed to deliver electrical stimulation to the patient's supraorbital nerve.

Use of the stimulator device was found to be "effective and safe as a preventive therapy for migraine," according to the study.

Study lead author Dr. Jean Schoenen, of the headache research unit in the department of neurology & GIGA-neurosciences at Liege University, and colleagues described the team's findings in the Feb. 6 online issue of Neurology.

Study participants were aged 18 to 65 and were being treated for migraines at one of five headache clinics in Belgium. All routinely experienced a minimum of two -- and an average of four -- migraine attacks per month. Although some had previously tried standard drug-based treatments, none had been taking any type of preventive chronic anti-migraine treatment in the three months leading up to the study launch.

Between 2009 and 2011, the patients were randomly divided into two groups. Both were given identical self-adhesive stimulation electrode pads to place on their forehead for 20 minutes daily over a three-month period. However, one group's electrode was a sham device that exerted an ineffectively weak electrical pulse, while the second group wore a working supraorbital transcutaneous stimulator.

Participants kept migraine diaries, which revealed that although migraine severity did not decrease much, by the third month of the study, those using the working devices saw the frequency of their attacks drop from about seven per month to fewer than five.

Sham device users experienced no such drop-off.

In addition, 38 percent of the working device users saw their attacks drop off by half or more, compared with 12 percent for those using fake stimulators.

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