May 1, 2009

Magnetic therapy may help migraine

U.S. researchers are studying animals to learn how magnetic therapy may provide some relief for migraine sufferers.

The therapy -- transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy -- focuses a magnetic pulse through the skull. In a previous human study, TMS eased the pain of migraine with aura, a condition in which various, mostly visual, sensations come before or accompany the headache pain of a migraine attack.

In the study, conducted in rats, the University of California, San Francisco researchers found TMS therapy blocks the wave of neuronal excitation -- the biological system through which neurons become stimulated to fire.

The data demonstrate a biological rationale for the use of TMS to treat migraine aura, study lead investigator Dr. Peter Goadsby of the UCSF, said in a statement. We found that cortical spreading depression and the animal correlate of migraine aura, was susceptible to TMS therapy, with the wave of neuronal excitation blocked on over 50 percent of occasions.

Goadsby said further research is needed. The findings, presented at the annual American Academy of Neurology scientific meeting in Seattle, support the possibility of a new non-invasive, non-drug treatment.

Some patients cannot tolerate medication due to stomach bleeding or other side effects.