Anyone who suffers regularly from migraines understands how difficult it is to get migraine relief. Even more difficult, is trying to get migraine relief without the use of medications that have the possibility of side affects. A U.S. based company, ElectroCore, has developed a device that promises migraine relief without medication. The device, called GammaCore, is a non-invasive electronic device that uses a mild electrical signal to stimulate the vagus nerve.
The vagus nerve has long been suspected as one of the major causes of migraines. The vagus is a long nerve that runs from the brain, through the neck, and down to the stomach. According to the ElectroCore website:
“Data suggests that vagus nerve stimulation may work by sending signals into the brain that reduce the amount of a substance,called glutamate. Excess amounts of glutamate in the brain have been associated with headache symptoms.”
Vagus nerve stimulation is already used to treat patients with epilepsy. The ElectroCore website refers to a study done on epileptic patients who were implanted with a vagus nerve stimulator. Out of 27 in the study, 4 also had chronic migraines. One month after the study a patient reported that they were completely headache free. The other 3 patients also reported significant decrease in severity and frequency of their migraines. Another study also showed similar results. Lenaerts, et al. reviewed a study that showed 80% of patients undergoing vagus nerve stimulation found relief and that 50% were headache free after 3 months of treatment.
The GammaCore device looks like an electric razor. Pictured below, you can see that it is placed on the neck, around the site of the carotid artery. There is a thumbwheel that controls the amount of stimulation the device hands out. The patient turns up the stimulation until they feel mild muscle contractions under their skin. The device is then held in place for 90 seconds.
The results? According to the website:
“Results vary from person to person. Some patients may experience immediate relief from migraine or cluster headache if the GammaCore therapy is used when symptoms begin. If the treatment is used several times per day as a preventative therapy, patients may experience a decrease in the severity, duration, and frequency of headaches. For some patients, a reduction or elimination of other medications may be possible when using the GammaCore therapy. Your physician will help determine the best treatment options.”
The great thing is very few side affects have been reported. Most of the side affects were related to skin irritation at the site. Unfortunately, the device is not yet available in the U.S. however, it did receive approval to be used in a chronic migraine trial back in June. It is widely available in Europe but must be prescribed under a doctor’s supervision. For more information, visit http://electrocoremedical.com/GammaCore/gammaPatients.php.