Prevention & Recovery

6 new treatments for chronic migraines

Photography by Geneviève Caron Author: Canadian Living Credits: Photography by Geneviève Caron

Prevention & Recovery

6 new treatments for chronic migraines

Statistics Canada estimates that 2.7 million canadians suffer from migraine headaches. When an attack hits, searing head pain, nausea, vision changes, sensitivity to light and sound, and vomiting can occur.

Dr. Werner Becker, a neurologist and professor in the department of clinical neurosciences at the University of Calgary, says promising new treatments could offer much-needed relief.

"Many migraine sufferers experience vomiting with an attack, so their oral medications don't get absorbed properly," he says. in response, scientists are finding new ways for the body to absorb migraine drugs, such as using a breath-powered nasal delivery system. "it's a clever device that delivers powdered sumatriptan, a common drug for migraines, into the nasal cavities, where it gets absorbed quickly,"explains Dr. Becker. Scientists are also working on sumatriptan skin patches and dihydroergotamine inhalers that bypass the stomach. While these strategies have been tested and proven to work well, they have yet to be approved by Health canada.

Researchers are also developing drug-free migraine treatments. Electrical stimulators such as cefaly, a battery- powered "crown" worn on the head, and gammacore, a device that's held against the vagus nerve in the neck, "hope to reduce migraine tendency by stimulating nerves through the skin," says Dr. Becker. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TmS), a technique used to treat depression, is also being investigated. instead of electric impulses, TmS employs a magnetic field to stimulate the brain's nerve cells. "it seems to reduce migraine frequency, but more research needs to be done before it's available to the public," says Dr. Becker. great strides in treatment are being made, but don't expect a cure. "The migraine tendency is almost certainly genetic, so we can't take those genes away," he says. But there is hope for symptom relief.

For more tips, check out 9 ways to get rid of a migraine.

This content is vetted by medical experts


This story was originally titled "Under Pressure" in the November 2014 issue.

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Prevention & Recovery

6 new treatments for chronic migraines

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