Wireless electric patch for migraines

A new electric device is being tested for the treatment of migraine by an Israeli company, Theranica. Transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation (TENS) has been successfully used for the treatment of musculoskeletal disorders for decades. The theory behind it is the so-called gate theory of pain. It is thought that by stimulating larger nerve fibers we can block pain messages sent by smaller pain-sensing nerve fibers.

Cefaly is a TENS device which became available in 2014 and it provides electrical stimulation of the supraorbital nerves in the forehead. Only small studies have been conducted, so it is not clear how well Cefaly relieves migraines. As far as our experience, we at the NY Headache Center usually treat more severely affected patients, so it is possible that the results are better in people with less severe migraines.

The new wireless patch that is being developed by Theranica is applied to the upper arm. The results of the first study of this patch were published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

The study author, is a well-known neurologist and pain researcher, Dr. David Yarnitsky of Technion Faculty of Medicine in Haifa, Israel. He was quoted saying, “People with migraine are looking for non-drug treatments, and this new device is easy to use, has no side effects and can be conveniently used in work or social settings.”

The patch device is controlled by a smartphone app. It was studied in 71 patients with episodic migraine who had two to eight attacks per month and who were not on any preventive medications for migraines. The device was applied soon after the start of a migraine and kept in place for 20 minutes.

The devices were programmed to randomly give either a very weak stimulation to serve as placebo or different levels of stronger electrical stimulation.

A total of 299 migraine attacks were treated by these 71 patients. Two hours after the start of real treatment, pain was reduced by at least 50% in 64 percent of patients, compared to 26 percent of patients who received the sham stimulation.

Starting treatment early produced better results, which is similar to what we see with all migraine medications as well. None of the participants found the treatment to be painful.

The device is very safe and we hope that the ongoing trial that Theranica is conducting in the US will confirm its efficacy. It is not yet available in this or any other country.

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