Cluster headache researchers have been interested in treatments focused on the sphenopalatine ganglion for the past few years. The sphenopalatine ganglion is a nerve center which seems to be key in the symptoms of cluster.
In the past, this ganglion has been targeted by drugs which basically keep the area from feeling pain. Other treatments actually aim to destroy it.
These methods have brought relief to some, though not all sufferers.
Now there are ongoing tests of a device to stimulate the sphenopalatine ganglion using a small implanted device. The device may be controlled by the patient, and so used on demand.
This is in some ways preferable to strong drugs or an irreversible surgery. But, of course, although minimally invasive it’s still surgery.
But with the severe limitations of treatment for cluster, this is one to watch. It’s a treatment that’s still very new, and still being studied. But so far, the results are good.
Even patients who have been rather unsuccessfully treated in the past for cluster found that this treatment was a big help, significantly lowering their pain and increasing their quality of life. Although it doesn’t seem to work for everyone, the fact that it’s helping a significant number and that it is a treatment that will likely be improved with study is very encouraging.
Some researchers have wondered if the same treatment would work for migraine. A small study suggested that it may help some migraineurs as well, which could be good news for those who have not yet found good treatment.
For more information, read:
- Neurostimulation for Primary Headache Disorders
- Stimulation of the sphenopalatine ganglion (SPG) for cluster headache treatment. Pathway CH-1: A randomized, sham-controlled study.
- Electrical stimulator for cluster headaches.
- A remote-controlled device to stop severe headache pain