Zapping away migraines

June 26, 2008 5:12:15 PM PDT
More than 28-million Americans suffer from painful, life-disturbing migraines. Most use medicine to get relief, but there may soon be another way to zap away migraines with no drugs, no side effects and no injections.

Christina Sidebottom has had migraines since she was 10. When she has one she becomes nauseated, and like many migraines sufferers, she's sensitive to light. Christina uses injections for relief but they don't always work. "And the only recourse I would have in those days was to just go and lie down in a dark room and just wait for it to go away, " she said.

So Christina signed up to test a device nicknamed the 'migraine zapper' at Ohio State University's Medical Center. Action News first told you about the novel device last year while doctors at Jefferson University Hospital were testing it.

The zapper, officially called a transcranial magnetic stimulator, is based on the belief that migraines are like an electrical storm. For patients who get visual disturbances before the headaches start, the device sends a small electrical pulse to interrupt that storm

Now the latest study, lead by Dr. Yousef Mohommad of Ohio State University Medical Center, shows in a study of 164 patients, 39-percent of patients who tried the zapper did not get a migraine two hours after treatment, compared 22-percent who tried a dummy device. "These are very encouraging results," Mohammad said, adding, "There was no adverse reaction from the device. It was painless and safe."

Sidebottom said, "It was the most wonderful thing I've used in my whole migraine history mostly because it was a non-invasive treatment."

Doctors say medication is still the gold-standard for treating migraines. But the zapper could help when drugs don't. The Food and Drug Administration is considering approval of the device. If it's approved, it could be on the market within six to 12 months.