A new study has shown that a blast from a powerful magnet can knock out the symptoms of a migraine.
Published in the Lancet Neurology, the trial, which involved 267 "migraineurs", asked participants to briefly apply either a real electromagnetic device, or a dummy "placebo" indistinguishable from the real thing, to the backs of their heads when they experienced the visual disturbances that classically herald the onset of a migraine.
Study author Richard Lipton, from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, found that the subjects, who were "blind" to which treatment they were receiving, reported relief from an ensuing migraine 39% of the time when they received genuine magnetic stimulation compared with 22% amongst patients given the dummy magnetic devices.
This suggests that, for the 6% of men and 18% of women who regularly suffer disabling migraine attacks, a blast from a magnet can help to arrest the evolution of the symptoms before the headache kicks in.
The researchers suspect that the magnet therapy works by blocking and resetting abnormal patterns of brain activity which, as they spread across the brain surface, irritate pain-sensing nerves in the meninges - layers that surround the brain - triggering the headache.