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Drug-Free Migraine Treatment for Teens

Anyone who has had a migraine headache knows how debilitating it can be. For a teenager with migraines, it can be even more challenging. If you know a teen with migraines still struggling to find effective treatment, today’s post is for you. There’s a promising drug-free migraine treatment that can be used in adolescents ages 12 and older. 

Of course there are already a lot of treatment approaches. However, there isn’t a perfect one that works for every person. And, there are a lot more options for adults than teens and children.

So, anytime a new migraine treatment becomes available, there’s new hope. This is what I wanted to talk about today. This post is not sponsored by the product I’m discussing (it’s called Nerivio). I just want to discuss this approach so that if someone has a child over age 12, Nerivio can be on their radar. 

Again, I’m not recommending all 15 year-olds with migraines (for example) start this treatment. Not at all. There are many reasonable and affordable migraine treatments that teens and parents can discuss with their doctor long before they would need to consider something like Nerivio. In fact, common medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen are effective options for many kids and teens. See this post at how those first migraine appointments may go.

However, if a child has yet to find relief from their migraines, this is to help parents be aware of other options. 

What is Nerivio?

Nerivio is advertised as a drug-free option for migraines. It isn’t a medication or supplement.

 It’s a device that sticks to the patient’s outer arm, held there by a fabric armband. 

There are no needles or pokes. Nothing is injected. No chemical is absorbed through the skin like some medical patches. It’s literally just like a sticker.

The device is controlled by an app on the patient’s smart phone. 

How Nerivio Works

According to Nerivio, it works by stimulating the nerves the device touches in the upper arm. Practically speaking, this feels like a buzzing feeling, warmth, or vibration. Those arm nerves then send a signal to the brainstem that can help block the pain from a migraine headache. 

Patients are instructed to start a Nerivio treatment within one hour of their migraine starting. They’re to just stick and secure it on their arm and tap the app to start the treatment. The buzzing/nerve stimulation lasts up to 45 minutes. Patients can raise or lower the buzzing intensity through the smartphone app. They can adjust as needed during the treatment. 

According to their research, 66.7% of adults had pain relief after using this treatment.

Nerivio migraine treatment device in place on upper arm.

 What about Nerivio and teens?

The Nerivio device has been FDA approved for ages 12 and up. The data in adolescents showed that 71% found pain relief from their migraine with this device. I should mention that the goals of the research in teens were primarily safety and tolerability. And, they did conclude that it’s a safe option.

In fact, this study just showed one “adverse event” thought to be related to the device (temporary pain in the arm, which went away after the treatment).

It’s also pretty unobtrusive, fitting easily under a loose long sleeved shirt.

I should also mention that this referenced study is small and did not compare Nerivio to a placebo. (The adult research did compare to a “sham” treatment).

So, we really do need more information on Nerivio and other electric devices for migraine treatment and teenagers.

In the meantime, I still wanted to write about Nerivio today so parents and teens can be on the lookout for more information. Here we have an option to treat migraines in teens that does not have the same risks and side effects of migraine medications. And, we wouldn’t expect it to interact with medications either.

So, is it a magical device that will rid all teens of their migraines? Of course not. But, it does seem hopeful that here we have a treatment approved for teens that has few side effects. 

Disclosure: I have not prescribed this. A family member of mine has one, so they graciously let me examine it. 

Who cannot use Nerivio?

This device hasn’t been studied or approved for kids under age 12 or during pregnancy. 

And, Nerivio itself advises people with the following conditions should not use it: congestive heart failure, severe heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, or uncontrolled epilepsy. It also should be avoided in people with implantable medical devices (like pacemakers).

Because it needs to stick to skin, it’s important that the skin itself is healthy.

How can a teen try this device?

Nerivio is available by prescription only, so a teen can start with their pediatrician or neurologist. (Depending on insurance, there may be promotions available to make it affordable). It’s worth discussing other migraine treatments too, as electric devices are not the first-line treatment for migraines in teens.

Summary: There’s hope for drug-free migraine treatment in adolescents.

Medications can provide excellent migraine pain relief for children and teens. Many of these medications have been studied and found to be both safe and effective. A child’s pediatrician or neurologist can help select a good regimen. However, we now have another option that does not include medication at all. Electric devices like Nerivio may also ease pain. I encourage families to be aware of this emerging area of migraine relief.

Maya M. Mahmood, D.O., F.A.A.P. is a board-certified pediatrician and mom. She is passionate about parents having evidence-based information to help their families be healthier.

Disclaimer: This is for information only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this websiteFull disclaimer here.

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