Migraine Study Tests Pain Relieving Effects of Armband


Your head is throbbing and sunglasses don’t seem dark enough. You cover your ears. Everything’s so loud! You’ve been waiting it out for hours, but you can’t wait anymore. It’s time to treat the migraine. So you open your pill case—empty. You already took your last abortive medication allotted for the month. It’ll be 5 days until you can refill it. Your only choice is to grab an ice pack and earplugs and hide until you feel better.

We’ve all been there in some form, but there may be more solutions on the horizon. Especially relevant is one option that researchers are studying that will hopefully help many of us who do not respond to medication, cannot take anything, have monthly medication limits, or want another treatment possibility.

New options on the horizon

The option would be an armband stimulator that could abort a migraine attack. In a conversation with Brian M. Grosberg, MD, FAHS (June 2017), the primary lead investigator of the study, he explains how it would work: “On a very simple level, it works presumably by activating pain inhibitory pathways where the device acts as a remote stimuli that can exert a pain relieving effect using non-painful conditioning.”

Furthermore, the device would be controlled by an app on your phone, and if found effective, could help fill a gap in acute migraine treatment. The armband could be used at the onset of an attack because there wouldn’t be the same limits as medications.

Also, another benefit is that it would be suitable for the approximately two-thirds of patients that deal with allodynia. Dr. Grosberg explains that, “…if somebody has allodynia that affects their head, then having a device that can be applied to the arm that is relatively inconspicuous and you can operate by phone and go about your day, is a very nice attractive feature as opposed to a device someone has to wear on their head, with allodynia being prohibitive.”

Looking at the data

In detail, the study is a randomized double blind placebo-controlled trial that is looking at the use of the simulator in acute treatment of migraine in people who experience 2-8 migraines per month. There are 8 centers worldwide—4 of them in the US, and the Hartford Healthcare Headache Center is the lead site for the study. There will be roughly 250 people enrolled in the study across the 8 sites—and about half will receive a placebo.

The study follows a smaller study of 71 participants using the same device, published in March in the online issue of Neurology, the American Academy of Neurology’s medical journal, which showed similar effectiveness to triptans.1 So if the results of the larger study are comparable, it could mean approval for patient use.

Researchers are looking at people who get between 2-8 migraine attacks per month, because they are “…looking to hopefully end up getting approval for acute treatment of episodic migraine, just like an acute treatment for a triptan or such…. Most of the episodic studies look at roughly this type of frequency,” explains Grosberg.

The centers are now wrapping up recruiting for the study. Some parameters are:

  • 2-8 migraines per month
  • An established history of migraine
  • Meet the criteria for migraine with or without aura
  • Between the ages of 18-75

Four of the centers are in the US and 4 are in Israel. Anyone interested can check the detailed parameters and locations at the clinicaltrials.gov site.2

Hope for the future

In conclusion, Dr. Grosberg shares his hope for the help devices might provide to many people with migraine: “I do see devices being used more in patients, and I see patients requesting devices more.” The only question is “…will insurance companies see the tremendous value that devices can bring to patients, not only in improving tolerability, but in improved responsiveness to acute treatments, better functionality, and hopefully non-anxiety of usage of acute medications.”

So perhaps the more we advocate, research, and speak about migraine, the more options we’ll have in the future.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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