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Year : 2021  |  Volume : 69  |  Issue : 7  |  Page : 183--193

Noninvasive Neuromodulation in Headache: An Update

1 Headache Research-Wolfson CARD, Institute of Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience, King's College London, London, UK
2 Department of Functional Neurosurgery and Neuromodulation, Romodanov Neurosurgery Institute, National Academy of Medical Sciences of Ukraine, Kyiv, Ukraine; The Headache Service, Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK
3 The Headache Service, Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Giorgio Lambru
Headache Service, Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital, Westminster Bridge Road, London SE1 7EH
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0028-3886.315998

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Background: Migraine is a common disabling primary headache condition. Although strives have been made in treatment, there remains an unmet need for safe, effective acute, and preventative treatments. The promising concept of neuromodulation of relevant neuronal targets in a noninvasive fashion for the treatment of primary headache disorders has led to the trial of numerous devices over the years. Objective: We aimed to review the evidence on current neuromodulation treatments available for the management of primary headache disorders. Methods: Randomized controlled trial as well as open-label and real-world studies on central and peripheral cephalic and noncephalic neuromodulation modalities in primary headaches were critically reviewed. Results: The current evidence suggests a role of single-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation, supraorbital nerve stimulation, and remote noncephalic electrical stimulation as migraine abortive treatments, with stronger evidence in episodic rather than in chronic migraine. Single-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation and supraorbital nerve stimulation also hold promising evidence in episodic migraine prevention and initial positive evidence in chronic migraine prevention. More evidence should clarify the therapeutic role of the external vagus nerve stimulation and transcranial direct current stimulation in migraine. However, external vagus nerve stimulation may be effective in the acute treatment of episodic but not chronic cluster headache, in the prevention of hemicrania continua and paroxysmal hemicrania but not of short-lasting neuralgiform headache attacks. The difficulty in setting up sham-controlled studies has thus far prevented the publication of robust trials. This limitation along with the cost of these therapies has meant that their use is limited in most countries. Conclusion: Neuromodulation is a promising nonpharmacological treatment approach for primary headaches. More studies with appropriate blinding strategies and reduction of device cost may allow more widespread approval of these treatments and in turn increase clinician's experience in neuromodulation.


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