For about twenty years researchers have been looking at “neuromodulation” as a novel and exciting way to prevent and stop headaches without medication. What we mean by neuromodulation is affecting the misbehaving neurons, which are causing the headaches. This could be the fundamental neurons on the surface of the brain, whose small storms start the whole process. It could also mean stopping the neurons on the outside of the head, which release powerful chemicals that cause the pain. The modulations part is using some type of physical or electrical force to interrupt these signals.
The first such device to hit the market was the Cefaly®. It has been on the market about a year. It uses electrical stimulation or power to turn off the nerve endings in the scalp, those nerve endings that are either releasing the chemicals to cause the pain or the nerves that are feeling the pain. When used daily, the Cefaly has been helpful for about 50% of patients by preventing headaches or reducing the level of pain.
Today, the next exciting device became available to Pacific Rim Headache Center. This device is the Spring TMS,®. TMS standing for “Transcranial Magnetic Stimulator.’ This device is the sum of twenty years of research and engineering. It uses a powerful beam of magnetic energy (about the same as an MRI machine in the palm of your hand) pointed at the back of the brain, where most of the electrical storms start. It can sometimes stop them in their tracks.
While the FDA has only approved it for stopping a migraine with aura, when used during the aura, studies in Europe and the U.S. have shown that is also effective in preventing migraines from coming when used twice a day.
The great thing about this device is that it is drug free. It is painless. As an abortive, it is as effective as a triptan (sumatriptan-type medications) and will work even for those patients that a triptan did not help.
This device is not in the same class as all the gimmicks that you can see advertised or talked about such as copper bracelets, magnetic necklaces, funny earrings or crazy fad diets. The Spring TMS® is not a gimmick but was created by real scientists, basing it on what we really know about headaches, not on myths from the Middle Ages.
The Spring TMS® will cost about $300 to order and then it is leased for about $250 per month. It is not clear if the insurance companies will pay this fee. They tend to ignore headache sufferers but we are fighting to change that. It would make more sense to pay $250 per month than $500 per month for medications.
The providers at Pacific Rim Headache Center will be one of a handful of clinics nationwide, which will have access to a device that a patient can try in our office. Then we can write a prescription for one to have at home.
Of course, as previous postings have described, the business of Pacific Rim Headache Center is closing in two weeks and we have no openings during this mad rush to get in at the last minutes. Dr. Moren and I will be employees at Cascade Neurologic in Mount Vernon starting on February 8th. If you are interesting in this device, please call Cascade Neurologic and schedule a routine appointment at 360 424 8951. Please don’t ask people there about the Spring TMS® because they will have no information until we arrive there in February. If you want to use it to prevent headaches, you should try it twice a day for at least three months to see the full benefit. If it is not working, you can return it to the company by that time.