GammaCore for Cluster Headaches


MIAMI, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Some patients say the pain is worse than childbirth! We’re talking about cluster headaches. Now a little device may provide big relief to the more than 350,000 people in the US who are suffering.

Heather Prattas is a busy, active mom of two young daughters.

“I bike and boot camp and paddle board.” Prattas told Ivanhoe.

But something stopped Heather in her tracks: cluster headaches.

Prattas said, “They actually call them suicide headaches because you become suicidal during the headache.”

Doctor Teshamae Monteith, MD, Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurology and Chief of the Headache Division at UHealth Department of Neurology, says cluster headache can affect both men and women. It strikes one side of the head and can occur several times a day for months called a cluster bout.

“An individual attack can last up to three hours but then it can occur multiple times a day,” explained Dr. Monteith. (Read Full Interview)

Because there has been little research into the cause, there are few treatments. Heather has been on ten different medications; oxygen was the only thing that worked.

Prattas said, “A tank will last me 2 or 3 headaches.”

Now there may be something better.

“The Gammacore is a non-invasive vagus nerve stimulator.”  Doctor Monteith told Ivanhoe.

It works by stimulating the vagus nerve and blocking pain signals that cause cluster attacks.

Doctor Monteith continued, “So the idea of stimulating the nerve to disrupt the pain signal is a way of potentially helping patients.”

Patients can control the level of stimulation. They apply it to the neck for up to two minutes. Heather hopes the little device will help.

“That would be a godsend, absolutely,” Prattas said.

Relieving the pain so she can get back to what’s really important.

Many patients enrolled in clinical trials reported getting relief within 15 minutes of using the Gammacore device. It has been approved by the FDA for cluster headaches, and recently migraines. For more information please visit

Contributors to this news report include: Janna Ross, Field Producer; Judy Reich, Videographer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Hayley Hudson, Assistant Producer; Dave Harrison, Editor.

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REPORT:       MB #4390


BACKGROUND: Cluster headaches are a series of relatively short but extremely painful headaches that occur every day for weeks or even months at a time. A person will tend to get them around the same time each year, such as spring or fall. Because they are seasonal, people often make the mistake of misdiagnosing them as symptoms of allergies or business stress. The cause is unknown, but it is known that a nerve in the face is involved and creates intense pain around one of the eyes. It can be so bad that people cannot sit still and will often move around or pace during an attack. They can be more severe than a migraine, but usually will not last as long. These are the least common type of headaches, affecting around 1 in 1,000 people. Men will get them more often than women, and usually start getting them before reaching age 30. They may disappear completely for months or years, but can come back without any warning.



SYMPTOMS: Cluster headaches strike quickly and usually without any warning, but some patients experience migraine-like nausea and aura at first. Common signs and symptoms during a cluster headache include but are not limited to; one-sided pain, restlessness, excruciating pain; generally in or around one eye but may radiate to other areas of the face, head, neck and shoulders, excessive tearing, redness in the affected eye or side, forehead or facial sweating, study or runny nose on the affected side, pale skin or flushing of the face, or even a drooping eyelid. Headaches usually occur every day, sometimes several times a day. A single attack can last from 15 minutes up to three hours. Most attacks occur at night, usually one or two hours after a person goes to bed.



NEW TECHNOLOGY: GammaCore is a device that has now been FDA approved for treatment of cluster headaches. It is a non-invasive vagus nerve stimulator that is believed to help block the pain signals that cause cluster attacks. It activates the vagus nerve with a gentle electrical stimulation; this provides relief from the pain of cluster headaches in a very different way than drugs. It avoids many of the drug-like side effects and injecting, inhaling, or ingesting associated with medications. It has been used in Canada and Europe for several years already, and is available by prescription only. When gammaCore worked within 15 minutes the pain relief was sustained without the use of additional medications. Many patients experienced relief from the pain across multiple attacks, and many episodic cluster headache patients experienced a reduction in the duration and intensity of their attacks.





Kai Hill



If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at

Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Teshamae Monteith, MD

Read the entire Q&A