Occipital Nerve Stimulation Found To Be Safe, Effective Treatment for Chronic Headache

Armen Hareyan's picture

Chronic migraine headaches

Patients suffering from chronic migraine headaches who have found no relief through the use of medication may find hope through occipital nerve stimulation (ONS). At the 58th annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, April 1-8, 2006, in San Diego, research physicians from Mayo Clinic in Arizona presented findings of their clinical studies that show ONS as a safe, effective treatment for chronic headache.


ONS treatment involves implanting a neurostimulator under the skin at the base of the head. The neurostimulator delivers electrical impulses near the occipital nerves via insulated lead wires tunneled under the skin.

More than 32 million Americans, 70 percent of whom are women, suffer from migraines and lose about 157 million workdays each year, according to the National Headache Foundation. Many sufferers progress to a chronic condition, experiencing headaches more than 15 days per month. It is estimated that approximately 40,000 people in the U.S. do not respond to existing treatments, and many may be candidates for alternative therapies.

The Mayo Clinic study involved 16 patients, 13 of whom where females aged 21 to 52. Of the 16 patients, nine underwent bilateral stimulator placement. Patients experienced an average decrease in pain of 54 percent. Six patients had no change or less than 50 percent reduction in pain, eight reported 50 to 95 percent pain relief and two had complete relief.