Non-invasive stimulation to control Migraine Headaches
Stress from work and strained relationships took a toll on Danielle as her migraine headaches became more severe and more frequent. This physically active young woman who loves to cook, bake, and work out found herself struggling as her migraines started to disrupt every aspect of her life.
Migraine headaches tend to be a hereditary condition, but for Danielle, there are no known family members with the condition. Not an official causal diagnosis, Danielle started having migraine headaches after she was in a car accident at the age of 19. As she turned into her 20s, the condition became worse. Despite taking prescription and over-the-counter medications, she still endured days, even weeks with debilitating pain. By the time she was in her 30s, her migraine headaches were at a peak where she was having rebound headaches and became resistant to medications. She went to countless neurologists but consistently walked away feeling like they weren’t listening to her. “I couldn’t find a physician who would take the time to see my circumstances,” she says. “to really get to the bottom of it.”
Prior to the pandemic, she was working in a fast-paced healthcare environment as an occupational therapist and was pushing herself to succeed. That internal drive to succeed left her with severe migraine headaches landing her in the hospital. The standard treatment of prescription medications did not work for her and the side effects were not healthy. She tried other alternatives like physical therapy, injections or creams but none had a significant change to her migraines. Pushed to the point where she was no longer able to work, Danielle found herself bed bound from severe headaches and living on disability.
Once the COVID-19 pandemic took over the world headlines, her condition was uncontrollable and she decided to quit all the medications cold turkey. She was taking so many medications and the side effects were unbearable. That process was not easy. “It was the worst.” She remembers, “I never felt so much pain before.” It was a friend who recommended a doctor based in Cleveland, OH. She made an appointment and traveled there. During their visit, the doctor recognized that Danielle was desperately trying to find a solution. He was the first to recommend a new, non-invasive, drug-free remote electrical stimulation (REN) device. The REN device is worn on the arm. It delivers electrical stimulation to the C and Aδ fibers in the peripheral nerves activating a brainstem-mediated pain control pathway to block the pain signal. This “conditioned pain modulation” method is believed to “switch off” the catalyst of migraine attacks in the brain.
Interested in finding other solutions that would quell her migraine episodes, Danielle ordered the device. She was a little hesitant at first but after trying so many other failed therapies she was excited to try a potential solution. Upon her first attempt, she had mediocre results. During the second treatment session, she drastically increased the intensity with lackluster results. Turning to a Facebook group, there was one person who responded to her question about the REN therapy who had poor results as well.
A customer service agent from the company explained to Danielle that the highest intensity is not always the most effective setting. They recommended Danielle to turn down the intensity and then try the device again. At that point, she started feeling the benefits, so much so that Danielle was using the device multiple times per day. After using the REN therapy for one year, she uses the device only when she has a migraine attack. Today, Danielle now works part-time at a special needs school and she is taking classes to earn her Bachelor’s degree in Education.
Chronic pain conditions are seldom a one treatment fix. Many pain experts recommend a combination of methods and modalities to help people take control of their chronic pain. For Danielle, she now uses a combination of biofeedback, acetaminophen, and the REN therapy to control her migraine headache condition. She also found that using the REN therapy while in a dark, quiet room yields the best results for her. The advice she offers to others living with migraine headaches is to search every avenue for the right treatments. Pain management is an individualized endeavor. “Don’t get discouraged. There are always options.”