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Can A Puff Of Air In Your Ear Stop Migraine Headaches?
By George W. Kukurin, DC, DACAN

Sounds like a trick question I know, but a clinical trial conducted by a friend and colleague Dr. David Sullivan of Mechanicsburg suggests pressurizing the ear canal with air can often completely eliminate the pain from migraine. I had the opportunity to study with Dr. Dave and learn his technique known as the Sullivan Insufflation Method in his office. The results of his study are quite remarkable and the research is ongoing, but the positive outcomes with headache patients can be quite dramatic. The technique involves gently blowing air against the eardrum (insufflation) using a device called a pneumatic otoscope. This technique is commonly performed as a diagnostic procedure for ear conditions. When performed on a patient suffering from migraine, the technique appears to modulate the nervous system and reduce or eliminate head pain. The exact mechanism by which ear insufflation reduces pain is still under study. In theory, it may be a form of neuromodulation. Neuromodulation means activating one group of nerves for the purpose of changing the activity in another group of nerves, all for the benefit of the patient. It has been known for years that patients suffering with migraine headache have abnormal function in a nerve center called the Trigeminal Ganglion. It may be possible to normalize the Trigeminal Ganglion in migraine by stimulating other cranial nerves in the ear canal. So the basic concept is that in migraine sufferers, the Trigeminal Nerve is hyperactive causing the severe pain associated with migraine. Ear insufflation has the potential to activate several nerves other than the Trigeminal Nerve (most importantly the Vagus nerve). Activation of nerves other than the runaway Trigeminal Nerves can modulate or turn off the pain carrying signals in the Trigeminal nerve. To put it more simply, we use one nerve to act as a switch to turn off the activity of the nerve causing the headache. Even though the exact mechanism of pain reduction through ear insufflation is uncertain, what is known is the technique produces dramatic pain relief for patients suffering from migraine headaches. That is certainly good news for headache patients.

Dr. George W. Kukurin, Kukurin Chiropractic, Acupuncture & Nutrition, can be reached at (412) 381-4453 or visit www.alt-compmed.com.

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