NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – There’s very good news for many migraine sufferers: A non-drug remedy for the excruciating headaches.
A small, battery-powered device can reduce the severity or even stop a migraine in its tracks, reports CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez.
This device is new and recently FDA-cleared for migraine treatment.
It came about when an implanted electrode on the vagus nerve in the neck was shown to reduce epileptic seizures.
Patients then reported that their migraines also got much better, and that led to the gammaCore device.
“It starts behind my eyes, then localizes to one side of my head, then at its peak I feel like the only relief is if someone would stab me in the head or rip my skull open,” said migraine patient Ashley Albro.
Albro’s description of her migraines may sound a little dramatic, but ask any migraineur and they’ll tell you, that’s what those headaches feel like.
“They happen almost every day,” she said. “Constant pain.”
There are drugs that help with migraines, including a whole new class of medications that have dramatically improved treatment, but drugs always come with side effects.
“Tightness in the throat, pain in the chest, tachycardia, rapid heartbeat, and women who want to start a family can’t take it,” said Dr. Gary Miller of the JFK Neuroscience Institute.
The simple, battery-operated gammaCore and a similar version have been shown to be effective against cluster headaches.
Albro was just getting a migraine when she demonstrated the gammaCore device. First, a little gel is used to make sure there is good electrical contact, then she feels for the carotid artery in the neck because the vagus runs right nearby.
She then turns on the device for two minutes. The electrical stimulation travels up the vagus to the brain area thought to be initiating the migraine and short-circuits the pain.
While the relief isn’t always instantaneous, several studies have demonstrated the gammaCore’s effectiveness.
“We’ve tried it on more than 30 patients and 90% reported improvement or total resolution of their migraines within two hours,” said Miller.
“I felt immediate relief and it got better throughout the day,” said Albro.
The cost gets complicated.
The device itself costs about $600 and is covered by some or most insurance, but the device only works for 31 days. Patients then have to buy a refill that re-activates the device.
The company offers financial assistance, even going so far as letting people use the device for free for 12 months while they try to get insurance coverage.
For more information about the device, see the gammaCore.com website.