Electrical Stimulation Patch Could Alleviate Migraine

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 17 Mar 2017
A wireless neurostimulation patch that blocks pain signals to the brain may one day replace drugs for the treatment of migraine, according to a new study.

The Nerivio patch, a product of Theranica, consists of smart chip that is responsible not only for the creation of electrical nerve stimulation (ENS) and neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) pulses as per the user’s definitions, but also incorporates features such as therapy efficiency control and safety mechanisms. To begin therapy, the device is first connected to a smartphone app; when instructed, it generates electrical pulses, which stimulate sensory nerves under the skin via rubber electrode patches.

Image: A novel electrical stimulation armband patch could alleviate migraines (Photo courtesy of Theranica).
Image: A novel electrical stimulation armband patch could alleviate migraines (Photo courtesy of Theranica).

In a study conducted by researchers at the Israel Institute of Technology, 71 adults with episodic migraine averaging two to eight migraine attacks every month were instructed to apply the Nerivio device to their upper arm, using an armband. The devices were then programmed to randomly give either placebo (sham) stimulation at a very low frequency, or one of four levels of active stimulation; the stimulation was designed to not be painful. A total of 299 migraine episodes were treated with the device during the study.

The results showed that during active stimulation at the three highest levels, 64% had a reduction in their pain by at least 50% two hours after the treatment, compared to 26% of people during the sham stimulation. For those who started with moderate to severe pain, it was reduced to mild or no pain in 58% of people at the highest level of stimulation. In addition, 30% said they had no pain after receiving the highest level of stimulation, compared to 6% of those receiving the sham stimulation. The study was published in the March 1, 2017, issue of Neurology.

"These results are similar to those seen for the triptan medications for migraine; people with migraine are looking for non-drug treatments, and this new device is easy to use, has no side effects, and can be conveniently used in work or social settings,” said lead author David Yarnitsky, MD, of the Technion Faculty of Medicine. “Starting the stimulation within 20 minutes of the start of a migraine was more effective, with 47% reducing pain when starting early, compared to 25% who started after 20 minutes.”

Migraine is a debilitating condition characterized by moderate to severe headaches, and is about three times more common in women. The typical migraine headache is unilateral and pulsating in nature, and lasts from four to 72 hours; symptoms include nausea, vomiting, photophobia (increased sensitivity to light), phonophobia (increased sensitivity to sound), and is aggravated by routine activity. Approximately one-third of people who suffer from migraine headaches perceive auras – unusual visual, olfactory, or other sensory experiences that are a sign that the migraine will soon occur.

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