Potential relief for chronic migraine sufferers

October 10, 2011 2:47:31 PM PDT
More than 29 million Americans suffer from agonizing migraine headaches. A new experimental approach aims at offering relief.

According to many sufferers, the idea of having nothing to help is the most painful, debilitating and hopeless part. Now, researchers have tried different methodologies to help chronic pain suffers and have developed a brand new approach.

Most chronic sufferers of migraine pain are women. For many of them, the painful headaches are a daily event that can go on for years and years, as they did for for Kelly Amspacher.

"I would have shooting pains up the back of my head," she said. "I thought I was going to die. Throbbing, pulsating, feeling like spears are coming through my eyes."

Amspacher tried 44 different drugs that didn't work. Then, finally, success! She found a clinical trial run by headache specialist Dr. Stephen Silberstein.

"We get the worst of the worst," he said. "Their life is almost a continuous migraine hell."

Dr. Silberstein offered an exciting ray of hope in a new study using a tiny spaghetti-like wire. Called a neuro-stimulator, it acts like a pacemaker. It was implanted inside Kelly's body, below her hip. Two wires were then threaded up her spine to the nerves at the base of her neck.

Whenever the migraine hits, she uses a remote control to send tiny electrical impulses to interrupt the pain signals shooting into her head.

"When I woke up from the anesthesia, I noticed that I didn't have any pain at all," she said.

No pain and a life back - a life she can now enjoy with her daughter.

"It has freed me immensely," she said. "It has given me my life back."

Like half of the other test subjects, Kelly's headaches are fewer and milder, but not all patients are responding as positively. The exact responses will be revealed when the clinical trials apply their findings for approval by the FDA.