New treatment offers hope for migraine sufferers
About 37 million people in the U.S. suffer from migraine headaches. For many, they are recurring and debilitating.
More than 90 percent of the victims are unable to work when a migraine strikes, reports migraine.com. The World Health Organization lists chronic migraine as the 19th-most common cause of disability worldwide. In the U.S., the economic impact of lost productivity because of migraines is estimated to be as much as $17.2 billion annually.
More than two-thirds of those who suffer from migraines are women. They tend to be more common among people 35 to 55. The actual number of victims and the economic and medical impacts are likely much higher because many chronic migraine patients are undiagnosed.
Even though so many people experience chronic migraines, most still don’t understand all the causes and that makes it difficult to find viable treatments.
For many migraine patients, traditional painkillers and treatments with other drugs are ineffective. An exciting new treatment using an implanted electrical stimulation device is offering new hope for relief. The device involves very thin wires (leads) placed over peripheral head nerves that are stimulated with an electrical generator device to block head pain signals. The technology is helping many victims when nothing else worked.
Unlike other chronic headaches, migraines are typically accompanied by additional symptoms like nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and sensitivity to light and noise. Severe migraines can heighten sensitivity to the point where victims endure excruciating pain.
In a recently completed study in Switzerland, 71 percent of chronic migraine sufferers found significant pain relief from peripheral nerve stimulation. Patients reported a 60 percent decrease in pain and a significant improvement in quality of life. Over a mean period of 15 months, the number of migraines per patient declined from 28 to nine.
The treatment uses a small pulse generator to send electrical pulses to the pain causing nerves on the head. These pulses generate a tingling sensation that interferes with the nerve impulses that make you feel pain.
“Nerve stimulation is done in two steps. To see if it will help your pain, your doctor will first insert a temporary electrode through the skin to give the treatment a trial run,” WebMD notes. “The electrode is connected to a stimulator that the patient can control. If the trial is successful, your doctor can implant a permanent stimulator under your skin.”
The great thing about this technology is doctors at Novocur can test the pain blocking effect on your specific pain without you having to make a long-term commitment. The test allows you to feel the tingling sensation generated by the neurostimulator. Experiencing the test will help you decide if you want to proceed with a neurostimulation system implant for long-term therapy.
For patients who decide to proceed with long-term therapy, a neurosurgeon implants a permanent generator, very similar in size and technology to a pacemaker. It is typically placed under the skin in the upper chest area. As part of the procedure, permanent electrodes are anchored in place to reduce the chance that the electrodes can migrate out of proper position with everyday activities.
Chronic migraine victims who have been unsuccessful in finding relief through traditional treatments might want to consult with a medical professional experienced in using electrical peripheral stimulation to treat pain. This new treatment could help you get back to enjoying life when everything else has failed.
Dr. Alex Bigham is the owner and CEO of Novocur Pain Management Clinics and has over 18 years of healthcare experience in private practice and Ambulatory Surgical Center settings. Novocur offers advanced treatment options in a concierge type practice without the concierge price tag. Dr. Bigham appears frequently on local TV and radio programs to discuss the latest in Pain Management or related health topics.
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