Lifewatch: Possible new migraine treatment

Reported by Claire Hosmann - email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

(WECT) - About 28 million Americans suffer from migraines.

The debilitating headaches disrupt lives and force many to rely on powerful pain medications.

Now, there's a new technique that zaps away pain before it starts, by using a migraine magnet.  The treatment is helping sufferers get away from the pain, and get back to their work.

Richard Higgins has suffered from migraines since he was a kid.  The biomedical engineer now often gets them at work.

"My first symptoms are auras, which are small blind spots in my vision, and over the course of 10 to 15 minutes that blind spot grows so much so that I can't read or I can't drive safely," said Richard.

There may be a way to relieve Richard's pain without medication, but through a Transcranial Magnetic Stimulator (TMS).

The device sends magnetic pulses during the aura phase, the warning period before the migraine hits.  It's often described as an electrical storm.

"We're interrupting this electrical storm or current in the brain before it leads to the headache," said Dr. Yousef Mohammad, a professor of neurology.

Research shows 39% of patients were pain free two hours after the treatment, compared to 22% who got sham pulses.

Richard eagerly joined the TMS trial hoping to find a replacement for pain killers.

"Using a device that can disrupt my migraine without taking medicine I think is for me a much safer way to deal with the symptoms," said Richard.

With a job that requires his full attention, Richard can't afford to let his migraines win.

According to Mohammad, the TMS device could be approved in the next few months.  If it is approved, it will probably be much smaller than the ones used during the trials.