Those who frequently suffer from headaches know how unbearable they can be. From migraines to tension pain, headaches can significantly limit our ability to carry out our daily routines. Cluster headaches are particularly relentless. This rare type of piercing pain can last between 15 minutes and three hours, occurring as much as eight times a day. In the UK, cluster headaches affect around 11,000 people, which is why the NHS decided to come up with a solution. Following successful trials, the British healthcare system recently rolled out a handheld device called gammaCore Sapphire that can be used to instantly alleviate cluster headaches.
GammaCore uses non-invasive vagus nerve stimulation to soothe pain without drugs. When a user feels a headache coming on, they can simply hold the small device up to their neck and adjust the intensity of the stimulation. Electrical signals disrupt pain signals that run through a vital nerve in the area. Users will likely feel muscle contractions that pull their lip downwards, but this is no cause for alarm. These muscle contractions indicate that the device is positioned correctly, and their headache will diminish within minutes.
The roll-out of the gammaCore device is supported by the Medtech Funding Mandate, which fast-tracks innovations in the NHS. This mandate is part of the NHS Long Term Plan which came into effect on April 1, 2021. One of the plan’s primary focuses is to explore how affordable technology will allow the NHS to save money while still providing the right care. GammaCore is a prime example of this, as it allows patients to treat themselves easily at home. Additionally, it’s particularly beneficial for one in 20 sufferers who do not respond to more traditional treatment methods such as painkillers.
“While they may be small, these devices will make a huge difference to people who suffer from these debilitating headaches—relieving painful symptoms and allow people to go about their daily lives as normal,” said NHS Medical Director Stephen Powis in a statement. “The NHS Long Term Plan committed to making cutting edge treatments and technology available to save and improve lives.” He adds, “This is the latest example of the NHS testing the latest tech and rolling it out at speed for patients across the country.”
Check out how gammaCore Sapphire works in the video below and find out more about it on the NHS' website.