Stellate Ganglion Block for Migraines
Migraines are one of the most common health conditions in the world; affecting approximately 39 million people in the United States and 1 million people worldwide. Of those who struggle with migraines, 8 out of 10 are women. Other risk factors include:
- History of depression, anxiety or sleep problems
- Family history of migraine
- Living below the poverty line
- Being over 65 and on Medicaid
- Descendants of Pacific Islanders, American Indians and Alaska Natives
- Being between the ages of 18 and 44
For those who suffer from migraines the effects of the condition can be life-altering. Due to the extreme head pain along with nausea, vomiting, dizziness, sensitivity to light and sound and an array of other symptoms many sufferers are unable to work, go to school, care for others or even for themselves. In the US alone migraines cost the economy approximately $36 million dollars in healthcare spending and lost productivity.
Treatment options for migraines typically grouped into two different types: abortive and preventative. Abortive medications are taken during a migraine to alleviate the symptoms and provide pain relief. Preventative medications are taken regularly, usually daily, in order to help prevent any future migraines. Most of the medications in both of these categories are pills that are taken orally, with the few exceptions of an injection or nasal spray.
There are various other adjuvant therapies currently being tested and used in the treatment of chronic migraines. One therapy we are especially excited about is the stellate ganglion block.
What is a Stellate Ganglion Block?
A stellate ganglion block (SGB) is when a local anesthetic is injected into the side of the neck into the stellate ganglion. The stellate ganglion is a collection of nerves that are part of the sympathetic nervous system; part of our “fight or flight” system. Occasionally a nerve becomes sensitized after infection, trauma or other causes, and pain can come from sympathetic activity. When we anesthetize the stellate ganglion and block the sympathetic activity we may stop this pain. This treatment has been proven effective in the treatment of Post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain syndromes, anxiety and other stress disorders. In recent years, chronic migraines have been added to the list of syndromes that can be potentially treated with an SGB.
In 2020, a case study was published in the journal Medicine. Doctors in this study treated 2 patients with chronic migraines with bilateral SGB over a period of three months. At the end of that time both patients had over an 80% decrease in their symptoms as measured by the migraine disability scale (MIDAS). Earlier this year a study was published where 81 participants with chronic migraines were treated with SGB on one side of the neck over the course of four weeks. Symptoms were measured at baseline and then again at three months after treatment. In this study the participants experienced a 50% decrease in their symptoms on the MIDAS scale. The Korean Journal of Anesthesiology presented a study where 46 patients with chronic migraines and chronic tension headaches were treated with only SGB for eight weeks. Symptoms were measured at baseline, end of treatment and then again four weeks after treatment and showed a statistically significant improvement.
At Joy Wellness Partners we find all these results very exciting. They coincide with what we have seen with our own patients who have been treated with SGB for chronic migraines. Our patients report symptom relief and decrease in migraine attacks after only one SGB. If you suffer from migraines and want to learn more about SGB as a treatment option, book an appointment today. Our providers can answer all your questions and walk you through what the procedure entails.