New Device Zaps Migraine Pain

Medically reviewed in March 2020

What if we told you that there was a pill-free way to relieve the throbbing, pulsing and sometimes debilitating pain of a migraine? For the first time, there is: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a use-at-home device to treat migraines, called the Cerena Transcranial Magnetic Stimulator (TMS).

Understanding the Cost of Migraine Relief

The FDA approved the Cerena TMS based on a clinical trial of 201 people who suffered from moderate-to-strong migraines with aura. More than a third, 38 percent, of those with migraine pain reported being pain-free within two hours after using the device. That’s compared to 17 percent of people who didn’t use the Cerena TMS. Even better: 34 percent of device users said they were still pain-free a day later, compared to 10 percent of people who hadn’t used the Cerena TMS. The device is available only with a doctor’s prescription, and it hasn’t been tested for migraines without aura.

How the Cerena TMS works
Operating the Cerena TMS is simple. You just hold the device with both hands against the back of your head and then press a button to release a pulse of magnetic energy. This stimulates the brain’s occipital cortex, which may reduce or even eliminate migraine-associated pain.

Do you suffer from migraines with aura?
About a third of migraine sufferers experience auras, which typically start about 30 minutes to one hour before the headache begins. Most common symptoms include:

  • Vision changes, (flashing lights, zigzag lines, blurry vision, blind spots or black holes, distorted images)
  • Numbness or weakness on one side of the body
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion

5 Headache Triggers to Avoid

What you need to know about safety
While side effects from the device are rare, the FDA warns that there were single reports of sinusitis, aphasia (inability to speak) and vertigo. The new device is approved for use by those 18 or older, and should not be used by people with suspected or diagnosed epilepsy or a family history of seizures. The FDA also warns that people with metals in the head, neck or upper body, or people with an implanted medical device such as a pacemaker or deep brain stimulator shouldn’t use the device. Additionally, the FDA advises not to use the stimulator more than once every 24 hours.

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