Is The Omega Procedure Right For Me?
Neurostimulation & the Omega Procedure
Migraine is a complex condition that’s not completely understood. That said, there are several theories as to what leads to headaches and attacks, with most pointing to disorders in blood and neurotransmitter (brain chemical) flow. Consensus is growing that a very specific pattern of activity called “cortical depression spreading” is at the heart of most, if not all, cases.  And it’s this line of thinking that has led to treatments that rely on neurostimulation—the use of electricity to redirect pain signals in the body—like the Omega Procedure.
What’s the Omega Procedure?
Basically, it involves implanting electrodes just underneath the skin at strategic points in the head, depending on where you tend to feel pain. These are connected to a battery pack placed in the lower back, buttocks, or armpit area that can be turned on and off by the patient using a remote control. When engaged, the electrodes stimulate the occipital nerve of the brain, which disrupts pain messaging in the area.  Patients with these implants report that a slight, often pleasant buzzing sensation takes the place of the migraine pain when the device is switched on. [2, 3, 5]
Exploring the Options
The most common approach to migraine involves the use of prescribed or over-the-counter painkillers like Acetaminophen to manage attacks. These are effective in minor and moderate cases, but less so when the case is severe. They’re not without their problems: especially when used for a prolonged period of time, side-effects can include intestinal bleeding and ulcers. Other classes of drugs, like triptans and ergots, may also be used; these manage migraine by stimulating circulation in the brain. 
In tougher cases, doctors might prescribe opioid drugs like Vicodin or Percocet, which more efficiently cancel out pain messages from the brain. They certainly accomplish the task of mitigating symptoms, but use can lead to drowsiness, impaired motor skills, and digestive problems. Not only that, they’re highly habit-forming, especially with prolonged use.  This is why such prescriptions are rarely the first approach taken.
Seemingly, migraine is not a condition you can just medicate away. There’s no doubt, too, that, over the long term, the side-effects pose risks. This is exactly why there’s so much excitement surrounding neurostimulation approaches like the Omega procedure.
The Right Choice?
Medical studies, especially on conditions like migraine whose root causes are not entirely understood, are very difficult. But scientists and doctors are aggressively pursuing a greater understanding of migraine and neurostimulation as a treatment for it. Several studies directly testing this kind of work found that it worked for those with more difficult to manage migraine conditions, and, according to Drs. Erich Righter, Kenneth Alo and Marina Abramova, a positive effect can be seen in approximately 90% of cases.  In assessing the state of the field when it comes to neurostimulation for migraine, Drs. Todd Schwedt and Bart Vargas noted that surgical approaches like Omega can likely “serve an important in the treatment of patients with severe forms of migraine…that are intractable to less invasive therapies.” 
Clearly, the Omega Procedure works, and, as we’ve discussed in the past, it tends to do even better than other like-minded approaches like the use of Cefaly, an external neurostimulation device.
What kinds of patients are best for it?
- Chronic Sufferers: Since this is more invasive than other types of procedures, it’s not going to be the first approach recommended by doctors. It’s reserved for those who experience chronic migraine, typified by more than 15 days a month of severe headache. For this population, the symptoms are a dominant force, significantly impeding quality of life, affecting relationships at home and at work.
- Sufferers Who Have Responded Poorly to Traditional Treatment: One of the reasons that many in the medical field are excited about Omega is that it negates or severely reduces the need for patients to take pain relieving drugs. As noted above, side-effects are always an issue, as is the fact that, over time, the human body becomes more tolerant of them. Further, unlike Omega, such approaches only go after symptoms, not the source
Of course, in the end, the decision of whether this is the best way for you to go will need to be made in consultation with your doctor and specialists. It’s certainly worth asking about.
A Promising Future
Ultimately, the most important thing with migraine is to remain proactive: to not give up. There may be any number of ways you end up taking on the condition, so if something doesn’t work, it’s best not to be discouraged. You will find a solution, and, with researchers continuing to advance understanding of migraine, treatments will only get more effective.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Omega Procedure for Migraine, talk to a Patient Care Manager at Migraine Treatment Centers of America. The team at these clinics specialized in the procedure and are dedicated leaders in the field. Call them at (855 300-6822).
1. “Migraine Causes”. 2017. Migraine.Com. Accessed May 10 2017. https://migraine.com/migraine-causes/.
2. Eidt, A. (2017). What’s the deal with the “Omega Procedure”? – Migraine.com. [online] Migraine.com. Available at: https://migraine.com/living-migraine/whats-the-deal-with-the-omega-procedure/ [Accessed 10 May 2017].
3. Schwedt, Todd J., and Bert Vargas. 2015. “Neurostimulation For Treatment Of Migraine And Cluster Headache”. Pain Medicine 16 (9): 1827-1834. Oxford University Press (OUP). doi:10.1111/pme.12792.
4. “Diagnosis And Treatment – Mayo Clinic”. 2017. Mayo Clinic. Accessed May 10 2017. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/migraine-headache/diagnosis-treatment/dxc-20202471.
5. Richter, E., Alo, K. and Abramova, M. (2017). [online] Available at: https://migrainecenters.com/assets/Medically-Refractory-Headache-Treatment-with-Peripheral-Neurostimulation1.pdf [Accessed 10 May 2017].