Now zap that chronic headache with electric pulse

Here’s some heartening news for people who have tried various procedures but failed miserably to find relief from chronic headaches!

Researchers have pioneered a new strategy, a form of an electric impulse to deal with headaches that are difficult to treat with medication. The latest technique, known as the electric stimulation of the peripheral nerve may soon become an option for patients who are suffering from the debilitating disorder.

“Despite advances in headache treatment over the past two decades, many people do not get adequate pain relief from current treatments, or they cannot tolerate the side effects of the medications,” said Billy K. Huh, M.D., Ph.D., professor and medical director of the Department of Pain Medicine at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, and adjunct professor of the Department of Anesthesiology at Duke University Medical Center, Durham, N.C. “This treatment offers hope to those patients and a chance for a major improvement in quality of life.”

Working of the electric stimulation of the peripheral nerve
The technology of the electric stimulation of the peripheral nerve involves implanting of a thin insulated wire in the back of the head (occipital nerve) or in the forehead above the eyebrow (supraorbital nerve). Then an electric impulse is delivered to block pain.

The safety and efficacy of the new technique was assessed on 46 patients who received the treatment between 2005 and 2012. The patients were questioned about headache intensity, frequency of headaches per month, complications and overall satisfaction after the treatment.

The researchers found a notable decrease in both headache intensity and frequency. It was noted that the electric stimulation of the nerve cut average headache intensity by more than 70 percent. Moreover, the average number of “headache days” per month declined from 28 to 14. In addition, 90 percent of the subjects were contented with the treatment, with one reporting more than eight years of reduced headache intensity and frequency.

Short comings of the treatment include relatively high level of complications, such as electrode migration, equipment problems and infection. Experts are optimistic that as physicians achieve more experience with implantation techniques, the problems with ease.

“This is a real breakthrough for chronic headache sufferers,” explained Dr. Huh. “For patients with no other options to relieve their pain and suffering, this treatment is a way for them to get their life back.”

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