Headaches are second biggest ailment (after common cold) that bothers most Americans, and for 57 million of them these headaches can be so severe that they need to consult a doctor and take some medication.
Cluster headaches (they affect four of every 1000 Adults in US) are most painful of all. These headaches come without any warning, mostly occurring at same time of night or day, and continuing clockwork, again and again, for weeks or even months. Till date, there is no known cause for these headaches, and no effective therapy is there to handle them. Many are known to bang their heads into a wall to relieve that unremitting pain. Also nicknamed by many as “suicide headache” because many doctors fear patients may even take their lives, in order to end their torment, some may resort to more drastic measures to get some relief.
Millions in United States suffer from different types of migraine headaches. This pain can range from severe to mild, and may last from just few minutes to a day or two. By the time it reaches higher levels, sufferers may find it impossible to carry out their day-to-day activities. By the time pain due to migraine reaches higher levels, sufferers may find it impossible to carry out their normal daily activities. According to National Headache Foundation, migraine headaches currently affect 31 million adults in the US, and American employers lose around $17 billion annually due to 119 million lost workday due to migraine complaints. While it’s currently not possible to cure migraine, it can be managed with medications.
The sphenopalatine ganglion (SPG) bundle is located deep within the face (behind the nose bridge). Ever since application of alcohol or cocaine to SPF was first reported in medical journals around 100 years ago for managing headaches, the SPG bundle has regained prominence for treating severe migraine pain over the years: when some medication is applied to this area, it helps in creating a nerve block. Though headache relief comes within minutes, it’s short lived and procedure needs to be repeated again and again. This is cumbersome, mainly due to the location of this nerve bundle.
Instead of relying on various abortive or preventive medications or strategies (inhaling pure oxygen), the most popular migraine and cluster headache treatments, respectively, there is currently a novel treatment that can reduce migraine attacks frequency and severity without any need for medication.
Researchers in US have invented a special on-demand patient-controlled stimulator especially for the SPG nerve bundle. It’s a tiny implantable neurostimulator, approximately size of a cashew nut, is placed with minimally invasive surgery in the upper gum right above the second molar, and held firmly in place there. The lead tip of this implant is placed right above the SPG nerve bundle on the facial side where headache pain is experienced by most patients.
Whenever a patient feels headache coming on, a small remote control device is placed on the cheek and it quickly delivers required stimulation to the SPG bundle. Once the headache has resolved, this device is moved away from the cheek, which immediately turns of the stimulation therapy.