Treating Migraines with PEMF
BY JONATHAN BOWEN
Astrocytes, brain glial cells connect neuronal cells to blood vessels
Migraines - a nerve issue
Migraines are much more than a headache. According to the author of “Migraines,” Dr Elizabeth Leroux, migraines are now viewed as a disorder of the central nervous system and of the neurons themselves. Migraines are commonplace. One in ten people suffers from migraines. In 2012, the medical journal ‘The Lancet’, classified migraine as the third most common disease in the world in all categories.
Migraine attacks involve several different brain structures and neurotransmitters. Migraine symptoms include a pounding or throbbing sensation and sensitivities to light, sound, vibration, and sometimes touch. Migraines also cause nausea.
According to Doctor Elizabeth Leroux, author of Migraines More than a Headache:
“A migraine attack involves several different brain structures and neurotransmitters… a migraine attack is caused by inflammatory electrical mechanisms that occur on a microscopic scale…
A migraine may occur in response to an imbalance in the brain that triggers an aura in the cortex (an electrical wave) or prodrome in the hypothalamus.” (p52, 63) (1)
Phases of Migraines:
Migraines usually develop over phases. During the warning phase (prodrome or early symptoms), the victim will experience irritability, depression, tiredness and yawning, and possibly loss of appetite. Following this, the aura phase develops (in about 1 out of 4 people). Its symptoms include vision loss or the appearance of flashing or shimmering lights, hallucinations are possible, along with feelings of numbness or muscle weakness. After this, the migraine strikes in full force during the headache phase. Severe migraine pain is usually felt on one side of the head (the temples) or the front (forehead). However, it can be felt elsewhere as well. Often there is severe pain behind the eyes. The pain can last up to 72 hours. Next, the victim may experience dizziness, irritability and extreme sensitivity to light, smell and sound. Usually, they will retreat to a cool, dark, quiet place away from all external stimuli. Finally, there is the resolution phase (postdrome or after effects), where the symptoms wind down, and the patient has trouble concentrating, is exhausted and possibly depressed.
When breaking down the stages of migraines and the biology of each phase, Dr Leroux observes the Aura:
“Aura’s can now be explained by the discovery of cortical spreading depression (CSD). This is an electrical wave that travels from neuron to neuron across the cortex and produces symptoms specific to the area involved…. CSD may be compared to an electrical and chemical storm that seriously disturbs neuronal function.” (p63) (1)
When describing the migraine, she notes:
“Migraine pain results from inflammation inside the cranium… Inflammation is usually triggered by a disruption in the organism (infection, injury), requiring immune system intervention and tissue repair. The brain stem is responsible for migraine inflammation. In response to a trigger, the trigeminal nucleus is activated. It sends an electrical message to the fibres surrounding the brain arteries and meninges…. This irritates the nerve fibres and sends a painful signal back to the brain stem. The trigeminal nucleus then pass on the information to the thalamus, which sends it to the cortex where it is interpreted as pain. This very important and complex process is called neurogenic inflammation.” (p64) (1)
What is fascinating about this is that migraines are electrical storms brought about by different triggers. This electrical brainstorm can result in referred pain in the forehead, eyes, temples, sinuses and neck. In addition, researchers found that migraine pain is often pulsating but entirely different from the patient’s heartbeat and therefore is not arterial. Doctor Leroux also noted that another common reaction is allodynia, where everything hurts. Other reactions she noted were difficulty tolerating light (photophobia) and dizziness or vertigo. Finally, she relates the cause of nausea and vomiting:
“…a migraine attack’s electrical storm involves the areas that control the digestive system, causing symptoms of nausea, vomiting and sometimes diarrhea.” (p70) (1)
A migraine is an electrical brain storm
Typical treatment involves pain killers and anti-inflammatory drugs which have side effects and some are addictive
Common Treatment of Migraines
Dr Leroux discusses various migraine treatments in her book. These included pain-killing medications such as acetaminophen and codeine, sometimes mixed with caffeine. In addition, there are anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen, but these can cause stomach issues and affect the kidneys. Botox (botulinic toxin) is also used as it prevents nerve endings from releasing various neurotransmitters. There are also triptans which stimulate the serotonin receptors in the brain. Finally, there are narcotics, which are addictive.
Each of these solutions brings with them a host of side effects, including drowsiness, dry mouth, weight gain or loss, nightmares, anxiety, numbness, memory impairment, loss of appetite, tremors, hair loss, reduction in blood pressure, fainting, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, depression, liver toxicity and other distressing issues. If that were not bad enough, medication can become ineffective, adding to the complexity of the situation. Dr Leroux explains:
“The closer together the migraine attacks are, the more sensitive the system becomes, meaning that attacks are triggered more and more easily…. On a microscopic level, this sensitization is found at entry level of the brain’s electrical network: the cortex is more sensitive, the thalamus is more sensitive, the brain stem is more sensitive, so are the sensory nerves. Regularly taking medications contributes to this phenomenon. The brain gets used to painkillers and respond less and less, meaning that stronger, more frequent doses are needed.” (p78-81)(1)
Dr Leroux explains a fascinating element in her book: Neurostimulation or sensory stimulation diversion. For example, when be bump a limb, we tend to rub it to relieve the sharp pain:
“This competition between a non-painful sensation and pain occurs in both the spinal cord and the brain. This biological mechanism is sometimes called “gate control theory,” as though the spinal cord, opening the gate to one sensation, had to choose to close the gate on another…. A migraine attack… occurs in structures located inside the skull and cannot be stimulated directly… (various types) of stimulation use an electrical signal directed at the sensory nerve endings in the forehead and temples. The signal is supposed to interfere with the migraine’s pain signal and make the headache go away.” (p158) (1)
Treating Migraines with PEMF
Treatment with pulsed electromagnetic fields is very effective for electrical brainstorm Migraines. The goal of PEMF is to stimulate the brain and restore normal function while reducing inflammation.
A study reported in the Journal of Neurological Sciences found the following:
“Electromagnetic fields at 2—12 Hz have been reported to affect behavior in man and animals and several animal studies suggest that EMFs can specifically alter brain electrical activity.” (2)
An article in the publication Advances in Therapy reported the results of a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of impulse magnetic field therapy. Its effects are encouraging to migraine sufferers:
“In the active-treatment group, all assessed criteria were significantly improved at the end of the study… Seventy-six percent of active-treatment patients experienced clear or very clear relief of their complaints.” (3)
The effect of PEMF on migraine sufferers has been clearly documented. Another double-blind, placebo-controlled study reported:
“42 subjects (34 women and 8 men), who met the International Headache Society’s criteria for migraine, participate in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study… During the first month of follow-up, 73% of those receiving actual exposure reported decreased headaches (45% good decrease, 14% excellent decrease) compared to half of those receiving the placebo (15% worse, 20% good, 0% excellent). Ten of the 22 subjects who had actual exposure received 2 additional weeks of actual exposure after their initial 1-month follow-up. All showed decreased headache activity (50% good, 38% excellent).” (4)
PEMF is critical in restoring “quality of life” and basic function. A 2016 paper studied the efficiency of pulsed electromagnetic fields in refractory migraine headaches. It concluded:
“There was a significant improvement for the active group in terms of their headache days, durations and work-loss hours due to headache compared to the placebo group after 2 weeks. The added results of the assessment of the active group indicated a significant improvement in the days and duration of headaches, work-loss hours and number of medications even after a following 4-8-month period…. can be considered as a beneficial and persistent prophylactic treatment option for refractory migraine.” (5)