You already do what you can to prevent or treat your migraine. Would a TMS device help?
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) uses magnets to create electricity that stimulates nerve cells in the brain. At first, TMS helped people study how the brain works. More recently, doctors have used it to help treat depression and other conditions.
TMS devices. Cerena, made by eNeura, was the first FDA-approved handheld TMS device to specifically treat migraine with aura in late 2013. The company’s latest device, SpringTMS, is the only one on the U.S. market and offers the same therapy in smaller sizes.
How It Works
To use SpringTMS, you hold both handles on the sides of what looks like a battery-powered box. (A mini version doesn’t have handles). You then place the device against the back of your head and push a button. Each magnetic pulse fires a mild electrical current and activates a part of the brain called the “occipital cortex.” The treatment is thought to reduce or halt migraine pain by calming overactive brain activity.
SpringTMS, like other TMS treatments, is approved for use only with a prescription by adults aged 18 or older. It is recommended for use once every 24 hours. You may be able to rent a unit.
TMS shows promise, though there hasn’t been a lot of research on it. But the studies that have been done show that it’s safe and effective for migraine reduction, prevention, and treatment.
When researchers studied 267 people who had migraine with aura, more than a third of those who used TMS were pain-free after 2 hours, compared to 22% who did not get TMS.
In another study of 201 people, 38% of those who used a TMS device were pain-free 2 hours later, compared to 10% who didn’t use the device. But TMS didn’t relieve other migraine symptoms such as nausea or sensitivity to light.
More studies are needed to see how well it works over time and check for any long-term side effects.
Common side effects of TMS are generally mild to moderate. They include:
- Scalp discomfort
- Facial twitching
- Worsening of migraines
- Tingling sensations
- Sleepiness during treatment
Serious side effects are rare, including inflamed sinuses (sinusitis), problems with understanding language or with speaking (aphasia), vertigo, and feeling unusually energetic or “wired” (mania), especially if you have bipolar disorder.
Should You Try It?
TMS might be helpful if you have side effects from medications or cannot take them for other reasons.