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article imageWireless patch shows success in treating migraines

By Tim Sandle     Mar 18, 2017 in Technology
As an alternative to taking potent medication to combat the severe pain associated with migraines, researchers have developed a wearable device that uses stimulation to help alleviate the condition.
Migraines are no ordinary headaches and the pain and sickness that comes with a migraine attack can affect sufferers for several days. For people who experience several migraines each month they can be a life-changing condition. With migraines the headaches tend to affect one half of the head, are pulsating in nature. Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light, sound, or smell.
Migraines tend to be treated through drugs and rest. To find a new way to address the headaches, trials have taken place using wireless simulation through a patch fitted to the arm. Although the evaluation study was small, the results are promising, paving the way for further study.
The new device has been manufactured by the company Theranica. It consists of rubber electrodes and a chip attached to an armband. The user can control the electrical stimulation via a smartphone app. The stimulation acts to block pain signals from getting to the brain.
With the trial the developers used 72 volunteers who suffer from episodic migraines (defined as between two and eight attacks per month). Before beginning the study, none of the subjects took any preventative medication. Once a migraine attack began, each subject applied the patch to their arm and ran it for 20 minutes. During this time no medication was taken.
Over the course of the trial, 299 migraines into total were experienced by the subjects. To test the devices, the devices were equipped either to give a fake stimulation or a real stimulation. With the real stimulation, one of four different levels was provided. This meant five different conditions were tested during the study.
For those given stimulation at the highest setting, 64 percent of the subjects reported that the pain associated with the migraine had reduced by 50 percent.
The lead scientist, David Yarnitsky, M.D., of Technion Faculty of Medicine in Haifa, Israel explained to Bioscience Techniques: “These results need to be confirmed with additional studies, but they are exciting,” Yarnitsky said. “People with migraines are looking for non-drug treatments, and this new device is easy to use, has no side effects and can be conveniently used in work or social settings.”
The research has been published in the journal Neurology. The research paper is called “Nonpainful remote electrical stimulation alleviates episodic migraine pain.”
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