Help for migraine sufferers in the form of a hand-held device is in the pipeline.
The small device delivers a painless magnetic pulse into the head which may offer some relief, according to a small study.
The therapy known as noninvasive transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS, sparks a magnetic pulse which, when held against a person's head, creates an electric current among the nerves cells of the brain.
This electric current disrupts migraines in the "aura" phase, before they trigger pain.
Though in many cases migraines strike without warning, some people experience an aura stage, which is marked by visual disturbances, such as flashes of light or zigzag lines, or other sensations such as tingling or numbness.
For the study the researchers from Ohio State University recruited 201 patients suffering from migraine with aura, then randomly assigned them to use the TMS device or a "fake" device the investigators used for comparison.
The patients were instructed to apply the device over the site of the migraine, at its onset and the researchers found that two hours after treatment, 39 percent of the TMS patients were pain-free, versus 22 percent of patients using the fake device.
Dr. Yousef Mohammad who led the study says the results were very significant and a much better response than is achieved with any other method or medication currently used.
Dr. Mohammad says by interfering with the aura phase of migraine, TMS essentially interrupts the "electrical storm" that culminates in migraine pain.
Some patients in the study also found the treatment eased migraine-related symptoms of nausea and sensitivity to light and sound.
Dr. Mohammad reported the findings at the annual meeting of the American Headache Society, last week in Boston.
The research was funded by NeuraLieve, the manufacturer of the TMS device used in the study and Dr. Mohammad serves on the company's board of directors.