Millions of people could be spared from the misery of migraines thanks to a device that hits the brain with small explosions of electricity – in the comfort of your own home.
The size and weight of a portable radio, the single-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation device (TMS), treats and prevents the pounding headache that spoils the lives of up to 25% of British women and ten percent of men.
The device is cradled in the back of the head and with the push of a button sends painless pulses of electricity to short-circuit the "electrical storm" in the brain that causes splitting pain, flashing lights and blurred vision of headaches.
Similar procedures, performed in a hospital setting, are already used to treat conditions from depression to Parkinson's disease.
Now one of Britain's leading hospitals is prescribing new portable MMS machines for migraines.
The grandfather-of-four Barrington Simner, 72, is one of the first to benefit from the scheme that was pioneered by Guy and St Thomas's HyS Foundation Trust in central London.
He had migraines for 20 years, suffering up to five devastating attacks per week. "I started suffering from migraines when I turned 50 and gradually got worse," says the retired pharmacist. "They were completely debilitating, I should lie in the dark for a day or two."
The drugs have produced side effects ranging from irritability to drowsiness. He tried Botox – sometimes used to treat the condition – but he influenced his vision.
However, after two months of TMS treatment three times a day, her migraines started to improve. Mr. Simner, from Bromley in south-east London, now has an attack only once every five or six weeks. He no longer takes any painkillers and is able to live life again. He says. "Treatment has changed my life."
Classified as one of the 20 most disabling living conditions by the World Health Organization, migraines can take up to three days to pass and are responsible for most sick days of almost any other illness.
The treatments include potent painkillers and blood pressure medications and epilepsy, which can have important side effects.
TMS uses magnetic fields to generate pulses of electricity that stimulate or dampen key brain circuits.
Treatments include potent painkillers and blood pressure medications and epilepsy, which can have important side effects (image)
In migraines, it aims to calm signals in the cortex, one of the parts of the brain that is overly active during attacks. It is also thought to block key pain receptors and helps prevent cells in the cortex from going into overdrive again.
The TMS is approved by the health surveillance organization, the National Institute for Health and Nursing Excellence (NICE), for the treatment of migraines.
However, the need for daily preventive sessions or "on demand" treatments at the first sign of migraine means it has not been practical for hospitals to provide TMS in their surgeries. As a result, it has not been available until now.
About 90 patients have received portable TMS machines since the scheme was launched 18 months ago and two thirds are still using the devices.
Patients typically use the device twice a day to prevent migraines, morning and evening. Each session takes a matter of minutes: enough time to allow the patient to self-administer up to eight "zaps".
The Migraine Trust has said it is a "good treatment option" for those who can not take migraine medications. "Migraines are very common," says Dr. Anna Andreou, director of research on headaches in Guy and St Thomas. "But it's not entirely clear why they develop and for some people the condition can be extremely debilitating, causing severe headaches and vomiting.
"The really nice thing about the TMS device is that the treatment is safe, non-invasive and portable, and for many patients it's completely changing life."
Create your own …
Zingy & applize & # 39;
If you're doing Dry January and you'd like a bit of thirst without alcohol, but you've filled up with non-alcoholic beverages bought from the store, this homemade juice is simply delicious. Ginger, one of my favorite ingredients, provides zing and a whole host of health benefits – from calming the digestive system to relieving aches and pains.
- A piece of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 Cut the ginger and the apple into pieces, removing the seeds from the apple and mix them together.
2 Pour into a glass, top up with water and mix. Drink immediately.