Wireless arm patch may blunt migraine pain

March 1, 2017 by Steven Reinberg, Healthday Reporter

A wireless arm patch may be a promising new treatment for migraine headaches, researchers report.

Rubber electrodes and a chip in the patch produce electric impulses that block pain signals from reaching the brain, the study authors said.

When a starts, you can control the intensity of the electric impulses using a smartphone app, explained lead researcher Dr. David Yarnitsky, chair of neurology at Rambam Medical Center, in Haifa, Israel.

"You can use skin stimulation at an intensity which is not painful and be able to stop or substantially diminish the development of a migraine attack, as long as you do it early enough in the migraine attack," he said.

"There are no ," Yarnitsky added. "You feel a tingle in your upper arm."

Before, when stimulation devices had been tested on migraines, they needed wires and were attached to the head, Yarnitsky said. He is a consultant to Theranica Ltd., the company that makes the device and funded the study.

Yarnitsky said a trial with nearly 200 patients is about to start, and he hopes by next year that the device will be up for approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

"People with migraine are looking for non-drug treatments, and this new device is easy to use and has no side effects," he said.

The report was published online March 1 in the journal Neurology.

One neurologist said he was impressed by the findings.

"This treatment looks promising, because side effects are very few and treatment effects are large," said Dr. Richard Lipton, director of the Montefiore Headache Center in New York City.

The brain has an internal system for regulating pain called the chronic pain modulation system, said Lipton, who is also a professor of neurology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.

"The idea is that stimulating the arm activates the brain's mechanisms for regulating pain and, in turn, that helps turn off the ," Lipton explained.

To test the effectiveness of the patch, Yarnitsky and his colleagues tried it on 71 who had two to eight attacks per month and had not taken any medication to prevent migraine for at least two months.

Participants applied the patch to their upper arm soon after the start of a migraine. They used it for 20 minutes and were not supposed to take any medications for migraine for two hours.

The devices were programmed to randomly give either a sham shock at a very low frequency, or a real one at one of four levels of stimulation. This enabled the researchers to give both real and sham stimulation to every patient.

During the trial, nearly 300 migraines were treated with the device. At the three highest levels of stimulation, 64 percent of people experienced a reduction in pain of at least 50 percent two hours after the treatment, compared with 26 percent of those receiving a sham stimulation, the researchers said.

For those with moderate to severe pain, 58 percent had their pain reduced to mild or no pain when the highest level of stimulation was used, compared with 24 percent of those receiving sham stimulation, according to the researchers.

Moreover, 30 percent of those who received the highest level of stimulation reported having no , compared with 6 percent of those receiving the sham stimulation, according to the report.

These results were similar to those seen for people taking triptan medications such as Axert and Frova for migraine, Yarnitsky said.

The treatment is most effective when started within 20 minutes of the first signs of a migraine, he said.

When treatment began early, 47 percent of the patients had a reduction in , compared with 25 percent when stimulation was started after 20 minutes, the investigators found.

Explore further: Can nerve stimulation help prevent migraine?

More information: David Yarnitsky, M.D., chair, neurology, Rambam Medical Center, Haifa, Israel; Richard Lipton, M.D., director, Montefiore Headache Center and professor of neurology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York City; March 1, 2017, Neurology, online

Visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for more on migraine.

Related Stories

Can nerve stimulation help prevent migraine?

February 6, 2013
Wearing a nerve stimulator for 20 minutes a day may be a new option for migraine sufferers, according to new research published in the February 6, 2013, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy ...

Occipital nerve stimulation effective for chronic migraine

October 29, 2016
(HealthDay)—For patients with chronic migraine (CM), peripheral nerve stimulation of the occipital nerves reduces the number of headache days, according to a study published online Oct. 25 in Pain Practice.

Migraine patients find pain relief in electrical brain stimulation

April 20, 2012
Chronic migraine sufferers saw significant pain relief after four weeks of electrical brain stimulation in the part of the brain responsible for voluntary movement, the motor cortex, according to a new study.

Noninvasive devices may help migraines, FDA says

September 23, 2014
(HealthDay)—Two new prescription devices approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may provide some relief for people with migraine headaches who don't tolerate migraine medications well, according to a new ...

Recommended for you

The brain's frontal lobe could be involved in chronic pain, according to research

May 25, 2018
A University of Toronto scientist has discovered the brain's frontal lobe is involved in pain transmission to the spine. If his findings in animals bear out in people, the discovery could lead to a new class of non-addictive ...

Aggression neurons identified

May 25, 2018
High activity in a relatively poorly studied group of brain cells can be linked to aggressive behaviour in mice, a new study from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden shows. Using optogenetic techniques, the researchers were able ...

Doctors fail to flag concussion patients for critical follow-up

May 25, 2018
As evidence builds of more long-term effects linked to concussion, a nationwide study led by scientists at UCSF and the University of Southern California has found that more than half of the patients seen at top-level trauma ...

Bursts of brain activity linked to memory reactivation

May 24, 2018
Leading theories propose that sleep presents an opportune time for important, new memories to become stabilized. And it's long been known which brain waves are produced during sleep. But in a new study, researchers set out ...

Study suggests brainwave link between disparate disorders

May 24, 2018
A brainwave abnormality could be a common link between Parkinson's disease, neuropathic pain, tinnitus and depression—a link that authors of a new study suggest could lead to treatment for all four conditions.

Researchers define molecular basis to explain link between a pregnant mother's nutrition and infant growth

May 24, 2018
For years, pregnant mothers have questioned their nutritional habits: "Will eating more cause my baby to be overweight?" Or, "I'm eating for two, so it won't hurt to have an extra serving, right?"

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.