Migraine Surgery: Does it Work? New Study.
This article includes new research on migraine surgery, which surgery to avoid, and natural methods that relieve migraine by treating those same nerves.
Those of you who have read my articles or book know that I lean toward natural methods of migraine elimination and I am utterly skeptical of surgery.
Migraine surgery is, by all means, a last resort, to be considered after all other measures have failed. That said, the new research of a specific type of migraine surgery is changing my mind for a subgroup of migraine patients who qualify. I’m more than impressed. This research is also good news for natural methods of nerve relief for migraine, which I’ll suggest at the end of this article.
A new study published by researchers from Harvard Medical School, titled “Migraine Surgery: An All or Nothing Phenomenon?” found that most patients do exceedingly well after a controversial migraine surgery called nerve decompression surgery.
In short, they remove muscle tissue from around the nerves associated with migraine, in the face or neck, and pad the nerves with fat. Yeah, kind of gross. This freed-up space and added cushion take pressure off the nerves, hence decompression surgery.
Here are the results of the study:
- 14% of patients had less than 5% improvement.
- 17% of patients had between 5% to 80% improvement.
- 69% of patients had greater than 80% improvement. However, the mean improvement of this group was 96%!
A 50% or higher improvement is a standard benchmark for measuring migraine drugs.
Most prevention drugs have less than 43% of patients who experience a migraine reduction of 50% or higher. Botox has around 55 percent of patients having a 50% or higher reduction in migraines, of those with chronic migraines (study). Nerve decompression surgery has 69% of patients experiencing an 80% or higher reduction of migraine—with the average migraine sufferer in that group experiencing 96% relief.
We’re still skeptical because the placebo effect for surgery is through the roof.
The migraine relief for Botox in episodic migraine (under 15 migraine days per month) weighs in at 54% of patients reducing migraines (>50%). However, the placebo effect is 56% successful at lowering migraines by more than 50%. That’s why Botox is only recommended for chronic migraine.
The higher the pain experienced, the more the placebo gain. Needles produce a high placebo effect, but the placebo for surgery is even higher.
See my article on the Placebo Effect for more info.
I have reservations about the past migraine surgery studies, not mentioned in this article, which were small and included doctors that may have had a profit incentive from the results of their research because they also worked for the clinics that perform those migraine surgeries.
I thought, at least, they may have had biased opinions that could unintendedly skew their results. But new studies are proving me wrong and showing consistency in the success of nerve decompression for migraine sufferers.
A 2016 study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin turned to social media to provide feedback from migraine patients who underwent surgery (study).
The researchers found that 81% of migraine sufferers reported a complete or significant improvement in migraines from nerve decompression surgery. The research was consistent with current clinical studies, which shows between 79% and 85% of patients with complete or significant relief. It’s solid research.
I like to see this type of confirmation from real migraine sufferers that match the clinical research.
More importantly, the study found that nerve decompression surgery had nearly double the success rate than that of stimulators.
Nerve stimulators send electrical impulses to ease the nerves, but cost around $75,000, need battery replacements, and up to 71% of patients have adverse side effects such as migration of the stimulator (study).
Surgery is no joke. There is the risk of death from infection or complications. Adding a stimulator to the mix only increases risk. From what I’ve read over the years, nerve decompression surgery is a much better choice.
Nerve decompression surgery was recommended by 90% of users in the social media study. However, nerve decompression is limited to people who have had success with Botox or occipital nerve blocks, which indicate the specific trigger sites will benefit from surgery. It’s a last resort. The good news is that the new research further proves that treating the nerves associated with migraine is a great goal to have.
For naturally controlling the nerves associated with migraine, I recommend reading my article on the Wim Hof Method and Vagus Nerve to see how cold therapy and relaxation techniques dramatically reduce migraines. CBD can also calm those same nerves.
Slicing out muscles from around the nerve is only one method of treating the nerves linked to migraine. The surgery may not get to the root problem; it just relieves it. The underlying issue of the inflammation compressing those nerves should be dealt with, and there are some potent natural measures you want to check out now before even pondering surgery.