This new headache treatment is based on the finding that headache patients have an inflamed tender area above the upper molar teeth. The inflammation creates a local swelling, which exerts pressure on the adjacent maxillary nerve, causing the headache. This is contrary to current theories ascribing the cause to a swelling of the meninges, the outer covering of the brain. Researchers demonstrated this link in a multi-centered study by measuring the temperature and palpating for tenderness of the area above the upper molars. In patients with unilateral migraine or tension-type headaches, the temperature and tenderness of the area on the symptomatic side was consistently higher (37 of 40) and more tender (39 of 40) respectively, than it was on the opposite side, as well as directly proportional to symptom severity. Tenderness and elevated temperature are signs of inflammation. In the Emergency Department and Imitrex studies, a device called the Intra-Oral Vasoconstriction device (IVC) was used to chill the inflamed area to reduce the swelling, which takes the pressure off the nerve to eliminate the headache.
These findings were made by a dentist, Dr. Mark Friedman, who was also the principal investigator for all three studies. In addition to his private practice, he is also a Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine and of Anatomy and Cell Biology at New York Medical College. Co-authors of these studies were Drs. Stephen Peterson, Eric Larsen, and
Contact: Mark Friedman
Westchester Head and Neck Pain Center