Monday, January 16, 2012

Trephination and trepanation - Ancient migraine treatments

You may have heard of trephination and trepanation from your history class. They're the ancient arts of removal of parts of the skull and piercing the skull, respectively. The practice dates back at last 7000 years, and it's a way to manage migraines. It actually works. There is even evidence on skulls where the surgery was repeated after the first surgery was healed over and the bone had grown back. It's an extreme surgery to do, to be sure, but that is testament to how awful migraines can be.

The reason trephination and trepanation work is because of what goes on in a migraine. The brain has found a spot on the membrane that encases the brain, and mistakenly decided that it's injured there, even though it isn't. The membrane, also known as the blood-brain barrier, becomes leaky at that spot as the brain sends all sorts of healing chemicals to that area. It's why many migraineurs (people who suffer from migraines) can point to a spot and say, "That's where it hurts the worst." And that's where the ancient surgeons would remove part of the skull or drill a hole. As a result, the brain actually would have a wound to heal, and those chemicals could be used up. That would relieve the pain.

More on migraines...

(If you haven't guessed yet, this roller-coaster weather has got me a bit preoccupied with my migraines. You'll have to forgive my publication slow-down...)


  1. This has nothing to do with migraines but I saw on tv where they are once again exploring shock therapy for depression. I am sure it would be done more humanly then years ago but sometimes we have to go back to see where we might need to go.

  2. I saw a program where I guy *swore* by electroshock therapy for his depression. Yes, they do do it more humanely now with anesthesiology and other advanced measures.

    We really know so little even though we know so much.