Magnets for Migraines: Drug Free Treatment?

October 4, 2012

Doesn’t it sound ridiculous: holding a magnet up to the back of your head and … poof …your migraine disappears? Most people think of magnet therapy in terms of magnetic bracelets and rings, hawked on late night shopping shows and worn by athletes who swear they alleviate pain.  The science community generally views these gizmos as, well … gizmos and nothing more.  Well, there may be more to the ‘magnetic’ drug fee migraine treatment that doctors presented recently at the European Headache and Migraine Trust International Congress, held in London.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), the science behind the technology presented at the London conference, is based on magnetic impulses transmitted transcutaneously (above the skin) into the brain. TMS is relatively new and its use has been limited to treating depression and neuro-diagnostic testing.  In diagnostics TMS has been used to gauge neuromuscular activity in patients who have suffered strokes or spinal cord injuries.

The way it is being used as a drug free migraine treatment is by creating an interference with neurological signals that enable a migraine to occur.  A hand-held device, controlled by the patient himself, sends a strong magnetic pulse to the back of the head at the first sign of a migraine.  The magnetic stimulating device, manufactured by an American company, alters the magnetic field inside the brain and produces an electrical current, which interferes with the circuitry between the neurons involved with the migraine event.

Treatment testing results showed that among 60 migraineurs treated in British clinics, pain was reduced in 73 percent while other symptoms such as nausea were reduced in 63 percent of the patients. The results were reported in the British publication MailOnline.  Patients interviewed in the report were optimistic about a drug free alternative migraine treatment.  If indeed TMS turns out to be an effective migraine treatment it will be interesting to learn whether or not the relief stems from magnet therapy or nerve stimulation from the physical impulses.  In any event, despite the lack of scientific support, the other variety of “magnet therapy” will no doubt encourage late night impulsive shoppers to purchase nifty magnetic jewelry and accessories… If it makes them happy and there’s no harm done…why not?

Photo courtesy © Can Stock Photo Inc.

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