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Device offers new hope for migraine sufferers

A hand-held device that fires a magnetic pulse to the back of the head may offer new hope to migraine sufferers, research suggests.

In tests, the machine delivered pain relief for up to 48 hours with no noticeable side effects.

The technique is known as single-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation (sTMS).

Researchers used a portable device to apply magnetic pulses to the scalps of volunteer patients suffering attacks of migraine with flashing lights.

This type of migraine is characterised by neurological "aura" effects that precede the headache, such as lights or lines in front of the eyes, visual "blank spots", and tingling or numbness.

It affects about 20pc to 30pc of patients.


A group of 201 patients were randomly assigned either to receive treatment with a portable sTMS device, or a 'sham' machine that produced no magnetic pulse.

They were taught how to use the device themselves at home, applying two pulses 30 seconds apart as soon as possible after the onset of aura symptoms.

Of the 164 patients who treated at least one attack, 39pc from the sTMS group were pain-free after two hours compared with 22pc of the 'sham' group.

The machine did not aggravate associated symptoms, and no serious side effects were reported.

"Administration of sTMS in people with migraine with aura decreases progression of the attack in some individuals, and could be a promising acute treatment," the US research group said.

Migraine is often treated with drugs called triptans, but these are not effective or approved during the aura phase of an attack.

The drugs are also unsuitable for patients who are pregnant or suffering from arterial diseases.