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Could blowing cool air through your nose stop migraines? MSU researchers want to find out.

Dr. Charleston IV describes the gang of nerves called Sphenopalatine Ganglion.
Posted at 7:23 PM, Dec 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-15 21:56:43-05

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Can shooting cool air up your nose stop or reduce migraines? Medical researchers at the Michigan State University College of Human Medicinethink it's possible, and they are conducting a study of a device that does just that.

"Migraine is stigmatized, migraine is underdiagnosed migraine is undertreated, and sometimes people get the treatments that are not the best treatments," said Dr. Larry Charleston IV, director of Comprehensive Headache and Facial Pain program. "So this is something to help us to find out, will this be a treatment? Or could this be a treatment for patients with migraine, and a safe one at that,"

The study is using a transnasal thermal regulating device developed by CoolTech, LLC. MSU is one of three places chosen to test it out. The others are the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona, and Atrium Health Neurosciences Institute in Charlotte, North Carolina.

CoolStat device used in the treatment
CoolStat device used in the treatment

Charleston says the CoolStat device targets and calms a group of nerves right behind the nose.

"And it's called the sphenopalatine ganglion. And we believe that this has some play in the pathogenesis of migraine in some people. The idea is if we could cool that area, or....will cooling that area help us to abort a migraine attack by that area," Charleston said.

How the device works is pretty cool.

"It is taking ambient air and cooling ambient air to provide cooling to the sphenopalatine ganglion or in those nerve bundles that we talked about to actually help or we hope to abort a migraine attack, headache attack," Charleston said. "Patients or subjects would actually take the device and they will be able to put it in one nostril. They hold that for 15 minutes. We actually put some saline in here to moisten the mucus membrane so it doesn't dry out because we're taking air."

Demonstration of how the CoolStat device is used.
Demonstration of how the CoolStat device is used.

He says the study is funded in part by the National Institute of Health's HEAL Initiative which combats opioid use. 

"Opioids are overused and we need more treatment options for patients with migraine. And so this is an opportunity to at least be part of that process," Charleston said.

So the question remains can this be something that works? Well, MSU is looking to figure that out. They are recruiting people for their drug-free clinical trial. They are looking for people who live 50 miles of East Lansing, are 18 to 80-years-old, and have episodic migraines.

"Two to eight migraine attacks, no more than 15 headache days per month," Charleston said.

For those deemed eligible, the treatment only takes 15 minutes. And, a total visit lasts about two hours, Charleston says. This is a double-blind trial, so patients don't know what they are getting when it comes to the treatment.

"There are three arms to the trial. There's a high flow, there's a low flow, and there's room air. And so we don't know exactly who's getting what and hopefully the patients don't know who's getting what, because we really want to understand is this treatment, does this treatment actually work," Charleston said.

If you would like to participate in this study click here or call or (321) 307-8098.

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