Migraine sufferers may find help in nerve stimulation and avoiding certain foods

Headache sufferers in a Belgian study showed only modest improvement after using electrical nerve stimulators to reduce their pain, but the results still offer hope to millions who experience migraines and other headaches on a regular basis.

According to the National Headache Foundation, nearly 30 million people in the U.S. experience migraines frequently. Most are women, who are likely to get regular headaches between the ages of 15 and 55 and often have a family history of vascular headaches. Researchers at Liege University had nerve stimulators placed on the foreheads of 67 participants to transmit signals through electrodes to act on a major facial nerve called the trigeminal. Others in the study wore placebo devices that didn’t emit electrical signals.

Both groups underwent treatment 20 minutes daily for three months. By the end of that time, the average number of migraines experienced in a month went down from seven to five people, who were treated by the working stimulators. In the placebo group, the number of monthly headaches numbered six or seven each month.

Most importantly, 38 percent of those in the nerve stimulation group experienced half the number of headaches they normally have, compared to similar results for only 12 percent of those in the placebo group. The results were published in the journal Neurology.

Other treatments
Those in the Belgium study were people who have one or two headaches a week, but nerve stimulation may not work for people with more serious conditions, according to study leader Jean Schoenen, M.D., a clinical professor of neurology at the University of Liege.

“There is no proof at this time that this device is also effective in people with very severe or very frequent migraine attacks,” he told Reuters Health. “They should first be treated with the more effective drug treatments.”

WebMD reports that as many as 30 percent of migraines may be triggered by certain foods and beverages, which should be avoided. They include aged cheese, alcoholic drinks, caffeine and food additives such as nitrates, which are found in luncheon meats and monosodium glutamate. Other triggers include weather conditions that involve varialions in barometric pressure, menstrual periods, changes in eating or sleeping patterns and excessive fatigue and stress.

Staying away from trigger foods and taking a dietary supplement that enhances the body’s ability to handle tension and stress may help reduce headaches. Calmax from Dr. Newton’s Naturals helps fortify the body against stress and accompanying pain with high amounts of calcium and magnesium.