Migraine: With current impulses against headache attacks
Current pulses can apparently provide relief for headache attacks such as migraines and cluster headaches. A team of researchers led by Jean Schoenen from the University of Liège in Belgium has investigated the effects of current pulse therapy in migraine sufferers and has shown that this new treatment method has a very promising effect. The scientists have published their results in the journal "Neurology".
Migraine is a special form of headache, which is often not only accompanied by massive pain but also with so-called aura symptoms. Affected people are sensitive to light and noise, feel numbness or tingling in the limbs and suffer from dizziness, visual disturbances, nausea and vomiting. Depending on the intensity of the migraine attacks, these symptoms can occur in different combinations and forms. According to the German Migraine and Headache Society (DMKG), "worldwide epidemiological data show that depending on the definition used, a minimum of 0.2 percent to a maximum of 1.5 percent of the population suffer from chronic migraines." Women are four times more likely affected than men. Migraine sufferers often swallow numerous medications to control the troublesome headache. Here the therapy with current impulses could represent a valuable alternative, according to the Belgian scientists.
Chronic migraines: 15 days a month with a headache During the migraine attacks, those affected are often unable to cope with everyday life. You need strict rest, at worst the flare-ups can go on for days. According to the German Migraine and Headache Society, chronic migraines are referred to when sufferers suffer from headaches for at least 15 days a month for three consecutive months and there are more than seven days of migraine-like headaches. At the same time, drug overuse and other causes of headache must be excluded, explains the DMKG. According to the Belgian researchers led by Jean Schoenen, those affected could possibly be helped with the current pulse therapy. In her study, the number of pain attacks by stimulating the brain with current pulses was significantly reduced. So far, however, what this effect is based on is unclear.
Current impulses reduce the number of migraine attacks As part of their study, the neurologists at the University of Liège examined the effects of current impulse therapy in 67 patients from five different Belgian clinics who suffered from migraines for at least two days per month. Over a period of three months, the test subjects were placed electrodes on the forehead for twenty minutes a day, which stimulated the nerves behind the forehead with current impulses in half of the test participants. The rest of the subjects were only given the feeling that they were receiving electrical impulses. They served as a control group. According to the researchers, the number of days with migraine attacks in the test group after three months of treatment decreased from an average of 6.9 days in the first month of treatment to an average of 4.8 days after the end of the trial period. In the control group, however, the researchers found no reduction in the frequency of migraines.
Current impulses as effective as migraine medication and without side effects The stimulation by current impulses "is as effective and safe as existing preventive therapies against migraines", report the scientists. The therapeutic effect is at least equal to that of preventive migraine drugs and non-drug anti-migraine treatments. Thereby the current impulse therapy get along completely without side effects. However, it still remains to be researched whether daily 20-minute current impulse stimulation is an alternative to medication for chronic migraines. The subjects only had migraines two days a month and not seven days or more. In addition, it remains to be seen how the current impulses contribute to avoiding headache attacks. From previous studies on healthy volunteers, there is evidence that stimulation of the front nerves (supraorbital nerve and supratrochlear nerve) has a calming effect, the researchers report. Apparently, the central nervous system is influenced by current pulse therapy. Electrical impulses are already being used to treat migraines in Germany. However, this requires an operation, since the electrodes for the so-called "occipital nerve stimulation" (ONS) are inserted under the skin in the neck. There they are supposed to stimulate the nerves with current impulses. An evaluation of previous research in the area of ONS had shown last year that this procedure can also successfully counteract chronic headaches and migraines.
Current impulses to treat chronic migraines? The German Migraine and Headache Society comes to the conclusion that in the treatment of chronic migraines, current pulse therapy is an alternative worth considering, especially since the current procedure does not require an operation to insert the electrodes. The threshold for use is lower, explained DMKG President Andreas Straube. However, due to the limited amount of data, there is still some uncertainty. So far, it has been shown that "multimodal therapy concepts have the best chance of success," says the DMKG. However, the treatment of chronic migraines is urgently “in the hands of a specialist familiar with the clinical picture.” (Fp)
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