C2 Nerve-Field Stimulation for Fibromyalgia

Headache Treatment Tested for Fibromyalgia

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Stimulation of a spinal nerve may help treat fibromyalgia, according to research published in the spring of 2015.

The treatment is called C2 nerve-field stimulation or occipital nerve stimulation. It's considered minimally invasive and is already used as a treatment for primary headache syndromes. Earlier small studies suggested that it may be beneficial in fibromyalgia.

In this double-blind, randomized, controlled cross-over study, 40 patients received the treatment for six weeks.

Then, 25 of them with permanent implants completed a six month follow-up period.

During the six week treatment phase, participants reported:

  • 36% decrease of fibromyalgia severity;
  • 33% less pain;
  • 42% improvement in impact on daily life;
  • 76% were satisfied or very satisfied with the treatment.

Researchers say these results were maintained during the six-month follow-up period, as was a 50% improvement in quality of life. They believe this treatment could be a safe and effective option for fibromyalgia, and especially for those who had difficulty finding successful treatments.

The C2/Occipital Nerve

The term "C2" refers to the second cervical vertebrae, which is high in the neck. The occipital nerve branches away from the spinal cord at that vertebrae. "Occipital" comes from the name of an area of the skull that's down low in the back of your head.

Some headaches — such as tension headaches that sit right at the base of your skull — appear to be related to the occipital nerve and stimulation treatments can relieve them.

We know that headaches are common in those of us with fibromyalgia and may share some common underlying mechanisms.

Occipital nerve stimulation has been around for decades; however, it's still not common and much remains to be learned about it.

People who get this treatment have a small device surgically implanted at the base of the skull.

(This is typically done after a trial stimulation to make sure you respond well to it.) Once the implant is in, you go in for treatments and the doctor connects the device to a power source so that electrical impulses can be sent to the nerve.

Because of the need for an implant, the treatment does carry some risks, such as infection, pain, and muscle spasms.

Research is in the early stages, so your doctor may be unwilling to consider this as a treatment for you.

Source:

Plazier M, et al. Brain stimulation. 2015 Mar 16. pii: S1935-861X(15)00894-3. C2 nerve field stimulation for the treatment of fibromyalgia: a prospective, double-blind, randomized, controlled cross-over study.

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