Is Electric Migraine Relief Effective?

There seems to be a lot of electric migraine relief available to us now, more than ever before. But what actually works effectively? Biofeedback is the most widely prescribed method by health professionals to find pain relief.

But what if medications and biofeedback don’t really do the trick? Then what? Where do you turn?

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Luckily, biofeedback isn't all that's available now. There are a number of devices designed to target migraines.

Some new electrical devices require surgery. This option is the very last resort for me. I am so reluctant to have surgery.

And cheap... surgery is costly!

There's a lot of strong evidence suggesting that proper Biofeedback training is as useful as migraine medications. Studies have shown it to be comparable to a beta blocker.

So this means that using biofeedback training along with a medication (or medications, should you need daily prophylactics) should be even more beneficial than either one on its on.

The benefits being significant pain reduction. I would hope to expect complete pain reduction, actually, but doctors aim for 50 per cent reduction. Any reduction is worthwhile. 

Electrical Approaches To Migraine Relief Are...

Biofeedback, as electric migraine relief helps you “gain conscious control over body processes that are normally unconscious, such as blood pressure and the tension level in your muscles.”

By learning to control things like: changes in your pulse and heart rate, skin temperature on your hands and feet, muscle tone, and brain wave patterns you may be able to reduce your migraine attacks.

The device normally has a sound or flashing light to indicate a change in the pattern, plus these days you have a video screen to tell you what has changed. It does take some time to learn your bodily responses.

But over time, with a good biofeedback therapist, you can learn to alter your automatic functions. If you are a quick learner, you may only need a few sessions to get your started. This also has other health benefits.

Tens unit for migraine relief

Studies done with teenagers showed an 85 per cent improvement in functioning.

This particular study used 20 adolescents, who practiced the biofeedback technique three times a week for 2 weeks - and when they had a headache.

We need a larger and longer study really, but these results indicate a good reduction in migraine frequency and severity. And less school was missed.

With any alternative, complementary therapy, find a reputable therapist. Don't be afraid to check their credentials, experience and see who they are licensed with. You can Google most associations these days to see if they are legit.

Check with your insurance agency and your health funds to see if they cover biofeedback training sessions now. 

I enjoyed using the Wild Divine Biofeedback System, because it’s more like doing a meditation and you don't need to pay a therapist to teach you. It took me a bit to get the hang of it, but it was well worth it. 

It did reduce the intensity of them and I have much less anxiety around the attacks, but I think the new devices below are more worth looking into.

TENS - Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation

A few small studies support that this method using a TENS device “might reduce the frequency of migraines.” Many alternative health practitioners recommend using TENS with physiotherapy, massage, or some sort of stretching like yoga or chi gong to get the best results.

Implanted Occipital Nerve Stimulator

The Implanted Occipital Nerve Stimulator is placed at the back of the head just under the skin. This is considered a surgical procedure. It is a pacemaker like device that has electrodes to stimulate the occipital nerve.

The occipital nerve runs along the back of the head on both sides, joining with the trigeminal nerve in the upper part of the spinal cord. The electrical current reduces activity in the trigeminal nerve thus reducing migraine pain.

Only migraineurs that get no relief from medications will be considered for this type of treatment. It is invasive and a relatively new procedure. Not enough treatments have been done to provide high numbers showing positive or beneficial results.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

The Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation portable devices are getting more portable and more user friendly as each year passes. It provides a single magnetic pulse into the scalp, that induces a mild electric current in the back of the brain.

It is believed that this targeted electrical signal might “short-circuit the hyper excitability in areas of the brain associated with migraines.”

The Spring TMS is FDA approved as acute treatment for those diagnosed with migraine with aura, but it also being used in individuals who have migraine without aura. The published research is on acute treatment, but anecdotal evidence is showing some effectiveness as a preventive treatment over time.

Here is a link to the SpringTMS mini - sTMSmini

And this article shows a bit on how it works, but more about how to get a device and how much it costs. I've heard it has more success than the Cefaly device for effective electric migraine relief. (source)

Click here to read about Stress Headache Relief With Cefaly.

Vagus Nerve Stimulation

Vagus Nerve Stimulation normally requires a surgical procedure that places a wire to the large Vagus nerve in the neck and provides electrical impulses.

Currently, this is all theoretical and more research and data must be gathered before this can be recommended as an electric migraine relief method.

But there is a new device that stimulates the vagus nerve externally. Click here to read all about Migraine Headache Relief Using gammaCore.

Deep Brain Stimulation

Electric Migraine Relief

Deep brain stimulation used to be used to treat severe cases of depression.

It is currently being researched to help treat severe cases of cluster headache. (As is hyperbaric oxygen! Which one would you pick?) 

A pacemaker like medical device is implanted in the head and sends regular electrical impulses to designated parts of the brain known to be associated with migraine attacks. The constant pulses of electrical current disrupts the abnormal patterns of brain activity and is thought to restore normal brain rhythms.

However, according to Neurological Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh "the exact mechanisms of this neuromodulation are still unknown."  The research has had some success but serious side effects have negated the positives.

Complications like: infection, bleeding, and death all related to the actual surgical procedure of placing the wire leads in the brain means this procedure will never likely be used as part of main stream migraine treatment.

I just have to add here - I saw a new pain specialist a month ago, and he was very disappointed that he could not do this surgery on me (not sufficient health cover).

I mentioned the big sigh I observed and slouched shoulders, a sign of his disappointment, and he just said "it would be the best treatment for you."

Surgery is a last resort for me, and it seems, a first for him. Scary.

Cefaly, gammaCore, Spring TMS, Biofeedback and the new kid on the block for electric migraine relief.

The Latest Non-surgical Electric Migraine Relief Device Options

Here are the top ones:

The latest device on the market is this wireless armband by Theranica. It looks just like an ipod armband. So you can look like you are exercising! This would be my top pick so far, but I'll wait until more evidence is gathered. This is the newest development in electric migraine relief, and the study is looking promising. 

To date, nothing has worked better for me than taking a triptan medication at my earliest warning sign.

The electric migraine relief devices do help with intensity and can sometimes help with frequency, but they did not work for me on their own.

To your health and success with finding relief,




Electric Migraine Relief References:

1.  Rizzoli, P. MD, Loder E., MD and Neporent L. (2011) The Migraine Solution: A complete Guide to Diagnosis, Treatment, and Pain Management. St. Martins Press: New York. pp. 152-155, 173-174.
2.  Neurological Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh DBS


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