As a kid, I could always tell when my father was having a migraine. He would get this horribly pained expression on his face, take a couple giant Ibuprofen, start dimming or turning off all the lights in whatever room he sat it and get extremely quiet, putting his fingers up to his forehead just like the woman above. It always made all of us sad, but there was really nothing that could be done. One young woman I lived with in college had been prescribed a pill similar to Vicodin for most of her teenage years due to having such terrible migraines, but even with those, she was unable to function until the ache subsided. Unfortunately, when it comes to migraines, most people afflicted wind up just waiting them out.
However, a new prospective treatment is on the horizon for migraine sufferers: electricity. It definitely sounds weird, I know, but according to scientists at the University of Michigan, running an electric current through the brain helps it release the “body’s most powerful painkillers.” The technique is called deep brain stimulation, and it changes how fast the brain’s neurons fire, thus relieving pain by causing the brain to release endogenous opioids — the body’s natural painkillers that have similar effects to morphine.
The research, done on thirteen patients with chronic migraines (at 15 per month, some who had suffered for decades), showed that after ten sessions over the course of four weeks, the average person’s pain threshold increased by 37 percent. According to lead study author Alexandre DaSilva, ”This suggests that repetitive sessions are necessary to revert ingrained changes in the brain related to chronic migraine suffering.”
While the research is promising, DaSilva also states that the idea is a long way off from having any clinical application, but “with further research, noninvasive motor cortex stimulation can be in the future of adjuvant therapy for chronic migraine and other chronic pain disorders by recruiting our own brain analgesic.”