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Fight headache

Fight headache

Pain Congress in Hamburg: The fight against headache

People with unbearable headaches can breathe easy. At the pain congress in Hamburg, which started on Wednesday, new treatment methods will be presented. Up to 2500 participants are expected.

There is a new treatment method for the approximately 100,000 cluster headache patients living in Germany who describe their pain as unbearable, tearing and boring. On the Internet, those affected report such severe pain attacks that they would like to hit their heads against the wall.

Researchers have developed the so-called "sphenopalatin ganglion stimulation", or SPG for short. The patient is implanted with a coil directly under the skin on the upper jaw, which is connected to a specific nerve node via an electrode. If the person gets a pain attack, he can trigger a signal from outside using a device, a kind of remote control. "Then electricity flows and the ganglion is stimulated," explains Prof. Arne May, one of the two presidents of this year's pain congress and headache specialist at University Hospital Eppendorf (UKE).

Together with other European centers, scientists from the UKE and the University Hospital Essen tested the method developed in the USA in a study. "We recommended that our patients use the device for ten minutes," says May. In 60 percent of the patients, the pain was reduced within a period of four weeks. The intervals of the attacks became fewer or disappeared entirely. May reports that in some patients the pain subsided after just two to three minutes of use. The success rate was lower over the entire investigation period of 18 months, but there was still a significant improvement in 30 to 50 percent of the patients. However, the experts are not yet able to access long-term results over several years on this process. In the meantime, the UKE scientists have already gained some experience with the new method. "We have performed over 20 procedures on the UKE to date," said Arne May. Chronic pain is not an unknown phenomenon in Germany and is rather widespread. According to Prof. Thomas Tölle, President of the German Pain Society, twelve million people in Germany are suffering from chronic complaints. It is particularly important that acute pain is taken seriously and treated right from the start so that it does not remain permanent, said Tölle.

Against this background, he also referred to the "National Action Plan against Pain", which was launched three years ago. The aim was to raise awareness of this problem, which has also been achieved. However, research must continue to be promoted and patient care expanded. For the implementation of the action plan, he also called for political participation: "Support can only come from politics so that we can implement the action plan," said Tölle.

From the perspective of the German pain society, coordinated action is necessary, which should include more transparency and an increase in quality. In politics, the topic of pain should take up an independent advisory point at the Health Ministers' Conference. The development of health services research, for example through a German pain register for chronic pain, was also helpful. It also makes sense to integrate pain medicine as a separate examination subject within the course of study at the universities. "We also have to think more about patients with acute pain. There are still large gaps in the care at the clinic," said Tölle. For those affected, this is certainly more than just a glimmer of hope. (fp)

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