Would TMS Help Your Migraine?

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.    

Research

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.    

Continued

Side Effects

Common side effects of TMS are generally mild to moderate. They include:       

  • Scalp discomfort
  • Facial twitching
  • Headache          
  • Dizziness          
  • 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.

You should not use TMS if you have or might have epilepsy or a family history of seizures. You also cannot use TMS if you have metal in or near your head, neck, or upper body (except the mouth).    

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Neil Lava, MD on May 30, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

Migraine Research Foundation: “Migraine Facts,” “What is Migraine?” “Migraine Treatment,” “Non-Drug Treatments.”

National Headache Foundation: “New Devices Offer Hope in Migraine Treatment,” “SpringTMS.”

National Institute of Mental Health: “Brain Stimulation Therapies.”

eNeura: “The sTMS mini: A Remarkable Step Forward in TMS Technology,” “eNeura, Inc. Receives FDA Clearance for SpringTMS® Migraine Treatment Device,” “Use of Single Pulse TMS (sTMS) to treat migraine with medication overuse,” “Getting Started with the sTMS mini,” “How to get the sTMS mini by eNeura,” “Rental Agreement,” “Use of Single Pulse TMS (sTMS) to treat migraine with medication overuse,” “Clinical Publications.”

Mayo Clinic: “Migraine Aura,” “TMS Risks.”

NPR: (photo) “Electronic Headband Prevents Migraines With Tiny Jolts.”

Cefaly: “How does the Cefaly work?”

gammaCore: “About gammaCore.”

electroCore: “FDA Releases gammaCore.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS).”

Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Service,”  “Frequently Asked Questions About TMS.”   

Medscape: “FDA Approves First Device to Treat Migraine Pain,” “Efficacy of Noninvasive Brain Stimulation on Pain Control in Migraine Patients,” “Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for Migraine: A Safety Review.”

FDA: SpringTMS 510(k) Notification  K140094,

The Journal of Headache and Pain: “Resting state brain activity in patients with migraine: a magnetoencephalography study.”

National Library of Medicine: “New Medical Devices.” 

Weill Cornell Medical Psychiatry: “TMS Therapy.”

Acta Neurologica Belgica (via SpringerLink): “A survey on migraine attack treatment with the CEFALY® device in regular users.”

Neurology Times: “sTMS: Promising Migraine Therapy.”

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