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Nerve Stimulation Device can Prevent Migraine Attacks: Study

Update Date: Feb 11, 2013 05:20 AM EST

Stimulating certain nerves using a kind of headgear is effective in preventing migraine attacks in people, says a new study.

The nerve stimulation device, shaped like a headband, is developed by Cefaly, STX-Med. in Herstal, Belgium. The migraine sufferer has to wear the nerve stimulator on the forehead for about 20 minutes a day. The device sends signals to the supraorbital nerve.

Migraines are recurring attacks of moderate to severe pain that cause a throbbing or pulsating effect, usually on one side of the head. About 12 percent of the U.S. population suffers from these headaches, and women are three times more likely than men to suffer from migraines, according to Medline Plus.

There is no known cure for migraines, as researchers haven't identified a cause for migraine attacks in people. According to National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, migraines can be prevented by certain drugs, behavioral and dietary changes.

The present study included 67 people who suffered from at least four migraine events every week. These people were followed for a month. Next, they received either a 20-minute a day of genuine nerve stimulation for three months or 20 minute per day of sham therapy which included wearing the headband, but with no nerve stimulation. The latter group acted as a control group.

Study results showed that people who received nerve stimulation had fewer migraine attacks as well as fewer days with migraines when compared to people who received sham therapy. On an average, the number of days with migraines reduced from 6.9 days to 4.8 days for the nerve stimulation group.

"Repeated stimulation of [the supraorbital] nerve is able to modify the activity of brain centers that are involved in the transmission and control of pain," said study author Dr. Jean Schoenen of the Headache Research Unit at the University of Liège in Belgium, reports Fox News.

Also, researchers found no side-effects related to the nerve stimulation treatment.

"These results are exciting, because the results were similar to those of drugs that are used to prevent migraine, but often those drugs have many side effects for people, and frequently the side effects are bad enough that people decide to quit taking the drug," said Jean Schoenen in a news release from the American Academy of Neurology.

The study is published in the journal Neurology.  

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