It might start with a wave of nausea and tingling or a series of flashing stars fluttering across your field of vision. However it begins, a migraine headache can put your life on hold for hours or even days at a time once it takes hold.
About 10 percent of people across the world suffer from migraines. For those who frequently get these fearsome, throbbing headaches, sometimes the only solution is to crawl in bed and wait it out. Medications are available to help relieve migraine pain, but they don’t always work for some migraine sufferers.
Now, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a more unusual method of warding off these monster headaches — a headband that sends pulses to a nerve associated with migraines.
The Cefaly (Seff-uh-lee) headband is worn across the forehead to stimulate what is known as the trigeminal (try-gem-uh-null) nerve. Scientists have associated migraine pain with this crucial nerve. Once the headband is in place, strapped across the front of the forehead, it delivers a low, pulsing current to the nerve.
A study of migraine sufferers in Belgium showed that wearing the headband didn’t ease migraine pain or stop the headaches from happening altogether. But researchers did find that wearing the headband once a day dramatically reduced the number of migraines that study participants faced overall. According to the FDA, the device should only be used for 20 minutes a day.
The headband is the second device the FDA has approved in recent months to treat or prevent migraines. The first device was approved in December 2013, but unlike the headband, patients use this device after their migraine pain has begun. Called the Cerena (Suh-ree-na) TMS, this device is held up to the back of the head, where it sends a magnetic pulse to the occipital cortex in an effort to stymie the pain.
Both devices require a prescription.
For migraine sufferers, the devices provide new hope for easing the frequency and pain of these debilitating headaches.