A safer option for migraine treatment

Migraines can be extremely debilitating for any individual, leaving them mentally and physically exhausted.
Representative Image.
Representative Image.

A splitting headache at the end of a long day at work or a busy weekend is not uncommon. Drinking plenty of water or getting adequate sleep often solves this problem. However, if the headache persists for days, it could be a more serious issue like a migraine.

A migraine is a complex chronic neurological condition that results in throbbing pain in one side of the head, sensitivity to light and sound, and nausea. Migraines affect over a billion people globally. In 2019, a study found that India has the highest number of people with the condition.

Traditionally, migraines are treated with medications. However, with technological advancements in healthcare, there are less invasive methods that show fewer side effects than medication. One such option is remote electrical neuromodulation (REN) which has shown immense promise in helping patients manage the condition and improving their quality of life.

Benefits of REN

For patients with migraines, the usual course of treatment involves medicines meant to alleviate the pain and prevent future occurrences. However, these medicines can cause side effects such as gastritis, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, hypotension, fatigue, insomnia, sexual dysfunction, and liver issues. In some cases, overuse of certain medicines can also lead to headaches. Besides, some of these medications cannot be used in certain patient subgroups such as pregnant women, children, and individuals with cardiovascular or cerebrovascular diseases.

Safer alternatives for migraine treatment such as REN devices have shown immense potential in reducing the intensity and frequency of migraines. REN is a reversible, non-invasive, cost-effective, and adaptable process. These devices pass a mild electric current through the skin to stimulate the nerves responsible for causing pain during migraines. This triggers a pain inhibition response that prevents or alleviates pain.

REN devices are meant to be worn on the upper arm for 45 minutes. The intensity of the electric pulse can be controlled using an app, which can provide additional information such as reminders, treatment duration, and number of sessions left. Each battery provides 18 sessions, and a patient can order a refill device through the app. The devices can easily be worn under clothes and the treatment can take place while the patient undertakes their daily activities. Consistent usage of REN devices can also help reduce the number of treatment days along with the associated symptoms.

Dr Anshu Rohtagi
Dr Anshu Rohtagi

In the long run, REN devices can be an economical alternative to traditional treatments. A study conducted in the US found that the indirect costs of migraine totalled $19.3 billion, with every patient shelling out $22,364 per year. Using REN devices helped them save up to $10,957 per year.

In India, an estimated 211.25 million people suffer from migraine-induced headaches, leading to a loss of 5.8% of productive time. REN devices can help mitigate these losses. In the case of young patients, these devices can help them manage their condition effectively without compromising their daily activities.

Migraines can be extremely debilitating for any individual, leaving them mentally and physically exhausted. Medications do help, but may not be suitable for everyone. Moreover, with changing times, patients prefer alternatives that are less invasive and cause fewer side effects. REN devices are a safer alternative, providing preventive care and treatment. All stakeholders must join hands to boost accessibility to such devices, thereby helping many patients savour life without the constant pain.

Dr Anshu Rohtagi

(The author is a senior consultant neurologist at Sir Gangaram Hospital)

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The New Indian Express