Treating Migraines: More Ways to Fight the Pain

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), 12 percent of Americans (about 37 million people) have migraines. These debilitating headaches affect children and adults, and women are three times more likely to have migraines than men (about 18 percent of women have migraines).

The first transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) device granted marketing by FDA for use before the onset of a migraine, as a preventive treatment for migraine headaches was recently introduced. Patients can use this device daily, and the treatment has been shown to reduce the number of days during which they experience migraines. TENS technology has been around a long time as a treatment for general pain, but this is the first time it’s been authorized as a preventive measure for migraines.

There’s a great need for these noninvasive devices because many anti-migraine drugs have side effects that some patients can’t tolerate, says Michael Hoffmann, a biomedical engineer with FDA. “A drug may have the potential for systemic side effects because it’s ingested and metabolized. It may also have a variety of side effects that vary from person to person,” Hoffmann explains. “Patients have been looking for alternative migraine treatments. Because these devices aren’t ingested or metabolized like drug therapies, they don’t necessarily have the same types of side effects.”

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