Nerve Stimulator Eases Chronic Headache
Written by Editor   
Wednesday, May 28, 2014 11:44 AM

Patients with intractable headache pain who underwent occipital nerve stimulation reported a marked reduction in severity and frequency within the first month after implantation, researchers said.  "Occipital nerve stimulation significantly reduces headache severity and frequency in men and women at this pain managment practice," the group wrote. "Findings support further advances in the use of occipital nerve stimulation for medically intractable headaches."

The authors pointed out that 23% of U.S. adults complain of chronic recurring headaches and that the cost of treating this condition is estimated to exceed $1 billion annually. Neuromodulation uses electrical stimulation to block pain signals, the authors explained.

At 1 month, headache pain severity was reduced to 2.8 from a baseline of 9 on a 10-point scale for severity and debilitating pain based on post-hoc testing.  Frequency of the headaches, recorded at 18.7 per month at baseline, was reduced to 6.3 per month after 30 days.

Pain scores decreased from an average of 9 to 3.3 after 6 months and the headache frequency decreased from 18.7 per month to 5.7 per month they added.

Stimulator leads in one patient migrated away from the occipital nerves between the 3-month and 6-month period post implantation, and another possible complication can be infection at the site of implantation.  "Obviously, this procedure is not for everyone.  I am aware of these treatments for pain management, but not particularly for headache pain."

The author cautioned that "as in this study, this kind of treatment should be reserved for those patients with chronic, painful headaches or migraines that have not responded to other medical treatments."