Does migraine leave your head spinning? Noninvasive treatment shows early promise

September 25, 2019

MINNEAPOLIS - There may be some good news for people with vestibular migraine, a type of migraine that causes vertigo and dizziness with or without headache pain. A small, preliminary study suggests that non-invasive nerve stimulation may show promise as a treatment for vestibular migraine attacks, a condition for which there are currently no approved treatments. The study is published in the September 25, 2019, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

"There's a huge need for effective treatments for vestibular migraine attacks," said study author Shin C. Beh, MD, of University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. "People with vestibular migraine do not always have headaches and when they do, they are often less severe than in typical migraine, so the pain-relieving drugs used for typical migraine often are not effective. People can take drugs that suppress the vertigo or the nausea, but those drugs cause drowsiness and make it hard for people to go about their usual activities."

The retrospective study involved 18 people diagnosed with vestibular migraine. None of the participants had a history of other conditions that can cause vertigo.

The participants received electrical stimulation via a handheld device placed against the neck during a vestibular migraine attack. The non-invasive stimulation delivers electrical impulses through the skin to the vagus nerve in the neck. The stimulation lasted for two minutes on each side of the neck. This treatment is currently used for typical migraine headaches.

Of the participants, 14 were treated during a vestibular migraine attack and four were treated for dizziness that persisted between attacks.

After the stimulation, the vertigo improved in 13 of the 14 people who were having an attack. Two people had no more vertigo; five people had at least 50 percent improvement in their vertigo symptoms. Those participants rated how severe their vertigo was before receiving the stimulation and 15 minutes after the stimulation ended, on a scale of zero to 10, with 10 being the worst-ever symptoms. Participants' vertigo was rated at an average of 5.2 before stimulation and 3.1 after stimulation.

Of the five people who had a headache with the attack, all had improvement in the pain. Headache severity was also rated from zero to 10; it went from an average of 6 to 2.4.

None of the four people who had the treatment for dizziness between attacks had any improvement.

The participants reported a mild pulling sensation of the neck muscles during the stimulation but did not report any pain or other side effects.

"Vestibular migraine is the most common neurologic cause of vertigo, and can greatly interfere with a person's daily life," Beh said. "If these results can be confirmed with larger studies, not only could there finally be a treatment for vestibular migraine, such a treatment would also be easy to use."

The preliminary study has many limitations, including the small size, the lack of a control group and that both patients and researchers knew that participants were receiving the stimulation. Beh said that a randomized, double-blind study where some participants receive sham stimulation is needed.
-end-
Learn more about migraine at BrainandLife.org, home of the American Academy of Neurology's free patient and caregiver magazine focused on the intersection of neurologic disease and brain health. Follow Brain & Life® on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The American Academy of Neurology is the world's largest association of neurologists and neuroscience professionals, with over 36,000 members. The AAN is dedicated to promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as Alzheimer's disease, stroke, migraine, multiple sclerosis, concussion, Parkinson's disease and epilepsy.

For more information about the American Academy of Neurology, visit AAN.com or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.

Media Contacts:

Renee Tessman, rtessman@aan.com, (612) 928-6137
Angharad Chester-Jones, achester-jones@aan.com, (612) 928-6169

American Academy of Neurology

Related Migraine Articles from Brightsurf:

Disparities in migraine by sexual orientation
Survey data were used to examine the association between sexual orientation (exclusively heterosexual, mostly heterosexual, lesbian, gay or bisexual) and migraine.

Can you paint your migraine?
'Can you draw me a picture of your headache?' may sound like an unusual question - but drawings of headache pain provide plastic surgeons with valuable information on which patients are more or less likely to benefit from surgery to alleviate migraine headaches.

Acupuncture can reduce migraine headaches
Acupuncture can reduce migraine headaches compared to both sham (placebo) acupuncture and usual care, finds a new trial from China published by The BMJ today.

Migraine rats, medical facts
Migraine mechanisms are still far from being fully understood. Escalating data from animal models are 'fact-checking' the neurophysiological and behavioral correlates of the migraine experience in humans, and how they may be affected by current anti-migraine drugs or might translate into new therapies.

Connecting the dots in the migraine brain
This dMRI study pointed to the structural strengthening of connections involving subcortical regions associated with pain processing and weakening in connections involving cortical regions associated with hyperexcitability may coexist in migraine.

Predictors of chronic migraine
A review and meta-analysis found predictors of chronic migraine. Depression, high frequency attacks, medication overuse and allodynia increased the chances for new onset chronic migraine, while annual income -- US$ 50,000 showed a protective effect.

On nitroglycerin, cardiovascular homeostasis and...bam, migraine!
Researchers in Leiden, The Netherlands, found an exaggerated cardiovascular response to nitroglycerin infusion in migraine patients, suggesting an elevated systemic sensitivity to this compound in this population.

All roads lead to migraine
Dr. Samaira Younis, from the Danish Headache Center in Copenhagen, Denmark, shares her research results, which suggests there are no differences between migraine attacks clinical characteristics following administration of 2 different compounds in patients, CGRP and sildenafil, meaning they share common cellular signaling pathways.

Running away from exercise: The curious case of migraine
In spite of the widespread recommendation for regular physical activity as a strategy to manage migraine, for some patients, exercise can instead trigger migraine attacks.

Migraine prevention in children and adolescents
Two medicines already used to prevent migraine in adults also showed efficacy in adolescents with migraine.

Read More: Migraine News and Migraine Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.