No-Needle Migraine Treatment Relieves Kids’ Pain Fast, Study Finds

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Experts say a common, needle-free treatment for adults with migraines may be a good option for kids, too. They presented their findings on March 5 at the annual meeting of the Society of Interventional Radiology in Washington, D.C.

Your sphenopalatine ganglion (SPG) is a cluster of nerves pressed against the back wall of your nasal cavity. These nerves help inform the brain of all kinds of sensations, including pain, and have been a target for migraine treatments since the early 1900s. Today, adults with migraines and other head pain may be given an SPG block, in which a small catheter of local anesthetic is pushed into their nostril to numb the cluster of nerves. Doing so can bring fast relief and disrupt the debilitating migraine cycle.

The SPG block has been proven to be safe and effective—at least in adults. To find out if it could help kids, too, researchers at Phoenix Children’s Hospital recruited 85 migraine patients between the ages of 7 and 18. Each kid was asked to rate their pain on a scale of one to 10 before the treatment and again 10 minutes afterward.

Like their grownup counterparts, juvenile patients saw fast, significant pain relief with the SPG block. Post-treatment pain levels went down an average of more than two points on the 10-point scale. A two-point decrease may not sound like much, but it could help a kid with a migraine avoid missing school or—in the most severe cases—hospitalization.

Paper co-author Robin Kaye is section chief of interventional radiology at the hospital. She says the block has a lot of advantages, including eliminating the need for additional treatments. “By reducing the need for medications that come with serious side effects or intravenous therapies that may require hospital stays, children don’t have to miss as much school and can get back to being a kid sooner,” she said in a statement.

The treatment is currently only available at Phoenix Children’s, but Kaye says that will likely change soon, as she’s received a lot of interest from other pediatric radiologists.

She told mental_floss: “Until then, parents should either talk to their child’s pediatrician about the best plan of action to treat their child’s migraines, or seek out a pediatric neurologist that specializes in headaches and ask him/her about the possibility of their child receiving this treatment.”

Editor's note: This post has been slightly updated for clarity.