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Zapping migraines

Consumer Reports News: April 16, 2010 02:51 PM

When a migraine hits I usually reach for a drug to stop it like sumatriptan (Imitrex) or rizatriptan (Maxalt). I know that if I wait too long my day will be shot and I’ll end up in bed. But the medications often make me sleepy and I end up wanting to go lie down anyway. Neither of these scenarios is ideal for me because as a neurologist, I can’t just leave an office full of patients. So when I read about a new non-drug therapy that looks promising according to a study published in the April issue of Lancet Neurology, I decided to find out more.

The study involved a handheld device called a Transcranial Magnetic Stimulator, a non-invasive, portable machine that delivers brief, individual, magnetic pulses to the back of the head. In the randomized, double-blind trial that took place across 18 centers in the U. S., half of the 164 patients were provided with the real working device, while the other half were given a dummy machine. All of the individuals involved in the study suffered from migraine with aura—visual symptoms preceding at least 30 percent of migraines followed by moderate or severe headache in 90 percent of attacks.

Subjects applied the gadget to the area between the back of the head and the nape of the neck and administered two pulses about 30 seconds apart as soon as they could after their visual symptoms began. Thirty-nine percent of the participants who used the real device reported being pain free two hours later, compared with 22 percent in the sham group. (The difference was statistically significant). The study also showed that more of those who used the working device and reported pain relief after 2 hours were also pain free 24 to 48 hours later The machine, currently undergoing more testing, is not yet available to the public and needs further testing. But if studies continue to show that it works significantly better than a placebo, it may just be worth a shot.

Orly Avitzur, M.D., Consumer Reports medical adviser

For more information about migraines and treatments, take a look at:

Tracking down migraine triggers

Are you making your headaches worse?

Migraine natural remedies

Best Buy Drugs Triptans report


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