Update on the Cefaly Device (The Migraine Girl’s Perspective)

It’s been over a year since I last wrote anything about my Cefaly headband, and I wanted to tune back in and let everyone who’s interested know how it’s working for me. (Looking to see what it looks like to wear the headband? Check out my video from May 2016 here.)

Treatment adherence

To my happy surprise, I have nearly 100% treatment adherence when it comes to the Cefaly. I can count on one hand the number of nights I have not used it—and I find this quite impressive considering I’ve been using this daily preventive treatment for over eighteen months. That’s a year and a half! If only I could stick to other lifestyle changes with such success.

Cefaly model updated

Since I bought my Cefaly headband aka Cefaly 1, the company has created a less cumbersome model called the Cefaly 2. The Cefaly 2 is little device you slide onto the electrode instead of a Star Trek-style headband that forms a half-oval around your head. From what I understand, Cefaly will continue making the electrodes for the headband for the foreseeable future, but  I plan to keep an eye on that so I can stock up before they switch entirely to the electrodes made to work with the newer model. Who knows? By then I may need a new Cefaly device anyway. I mean, these things can’t last forever, right?

FDA approved as a daily preventive

I love my Cefaly and, while I haven’t seen a dramatic decrease in the frequency of my migraine attacks, they have certainly been less severe since I began using the Cefaly each day. It’s also now FDA-approved as an acute migraine treatment, so I put it on during persistent migraine attacks that aren’t responding well to meds. I can relax and rest while it’s on, and I end up doing multiple 20-minute cycles to keep my mind off the headache itself. To be clear: in some other countries, the Cefaly is approved to be a daily preventive technique and has another setting for migraineurs to use during an attack, aka “acute treatment.” In the United States, the device is FDA-approved as a daily preventive and as an acute treatment. Before Cefaly was FDA-approved as an acute treatment, I was told by two migraine specialists who have mentioned to me that they would use the U.S.-version of the device during attacks, so I felt okay taking this risk. Please do not do this without explicit permission from your doctor, and remember that I’m just a patient like you and not a medical professional.

Experiencing a higher trigger threshold

The main thing I’ve noticed since starting my daily Cefaly routine is that my trigger threshold is much higher. In most cases, I can now tolerate fluorescent lights and loud noises for a longer duration than I used to be able to. I can’t say for sure these improvements are Cefaly-related, but there’s definitely a correlation there.

Electrodes and battery life

Happily, the electrodes and the batteries last significantly longer for me than the Cefaly website and instruction booklet suggest. The Cefaly 1 uses two AAA batteries, and I’ve only changed them out a couple of times since I first made my purchase. (Cefaly 2 uses a rechargeable battery.) The electrodes for both models can be bought on the Cefaly website, and I recommend purchasing a few multipacks at once so you never risk running out. They have two kinds for sale, one with a hypoallergenic blue gel. For me, the blue gel ones don’t stay sticky for as long a time as the regular ones, and my sensitive skin isn’t damaged by the original electrodes, so I probably won’t get the blue gel ones again.

Electrode gel optional

Some of my migraine buddies have bought electrode gel at a medical supply store in order to extend the performance their Cefaly electrodes. Cefaly doesn’t necessarily encourage this, but I don’t see why using electrode gel would be a bad thing (even though Cefaly won’t be making as much money from us!). One community member told us that refrigerating the electrodes extends their life–I haven’t tried that, but I’m going to!

Feeling a relaxing sensation

As far as the device’s effects go, I still find comfort in its strange sensations and haven’t had to interrupt the 20-minute duration since my early days of using it. My forehead has a red mark on it after I take off the Cefaly, but the mark goes away quickly and doesn’t leave a lasting mark or irritated area. (I have psoriasis, so I’m relieved the electrodes don’t aggravate my sensitive skin.) My husband laughs at how often I fall asleep wearing it—the sensations must do something to my brain to lull it into relaxation because when I get into bed to read while wearing it, I don’t get many pages turned before I doze off. I often wake to Jim gently lifting it off my head and putting it back in its carrying case.

Physically, the headband is a small, lightweight item, and wearing it doesn’t hurt my sensitive head. The new model is even tinier and lighter weight. I find it most effective to put it on and not move much, as I have found that moving around may make the electrode disconnect from the Cefaly itself—and, when that happens, you hear loud beeps and have to start the session over from scratch. So I’d advise you use the twenty minutes to relax, read, write in your journal, or do some mindfulness.

How many of you are using the Cefaly? Which model do you have, and how are you liking it? Are you finding it effective? 

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (11)
  • beccainmilw
    8 months ago

    I got the ceflay 2 in December. Historically I had 1-2 migraines a week but last fall they went to daily and more intense. I started the ceflay and magnesium supplements (400 mg) about the same time. 6 weeks later my migraines returned to the 1-2 a week and have stayed there. I am not sure which was more effective or if it is the combination I am just happy to not have them daily. The first few times I used the device I found I had to tap it after a few minutes to max out the setting, after a few more uses I had not issues with the full setting. I use it daily as a preventative and once a week or so in the acute (longer) mode. I find it will dull the pain of a migraine to about half of what it was.
    I plan to continue to use it.

  • joshp
    8 months ago

    I’ve been using it for about a week and a half now – daily use for 20 minutes (Preventative setting), plus longer sessions in Acute mode when I have an attack. Acute mode is meant to be stronger but I actually can’t tell the difference between the three settings.

    The first time I used it, it felt uncomfortable but I very quickly got used to it. After a few days it became almost pleasant – like a brain massage.

    The three times I have used it during a migraine attack, it seemed to reduce the pain while it was on, but as soon as I took it off, the migraine pain immediately returned.

    I’ll keep using it to see how it goes long term.

  • 23u468k
    8 months ago

    I purchased my Cefaly from Belgium where it was made when they were first okayed by the FDA.. It has 3 settings: Attack, Prevent, and Relaxation. For 1 1/2 years I used it daily. It never worked, so I quit using it totally. I was always afraid to use it when I had an Attack, because of the sensations it gives off.
    I am going to take it out and try it when I have an attack, and see if it helps. My meds usually work, so I rely on them. I have around 24 Attacks a month that need RX meds..

  • Sharon f
    8 months ago

    I purchased my Cephaly on advice from my specialist as my migraines were pretty much uncontrollable. I was able to claim some of the cost back through my health fund. As medication and Botox, combined with withdrawal from OxyContin drugs I used the Cephaly device less. I lost my younger brother suddenly earlier this year and migraine has been an every day thing since then. I am now withdrawing from a compound medication of panadol and ibruprofen which I had been using as my go to pain relief so now I have gone back to the Cephaly. Fingers crossed

  • maureen52
    8 months ago

    I have only used it during the beginning of my attacks–I get about 12 separate attacks a month with some multiple day attacks now. Sometimes it postpones the pain or distracts. Another time, with a big attack, it seemed to make it worse but I could feel that with the device on. I also had tried using it for a successive 20 minute period since they came out with the new one. I also use the Spring TMS and Botox–still get a lot of migraines but not every day like some of you.

  • Evolutionary
    8 months ago

    I tried Cefaly several years ago and I found it rather unbearable for more than a minute or so. THEN I pulled it out recently to use as an abortive rather than preventative. GREAT success!!! The Cefaly pain is at least different than the migraine pain and it’s a nice distraction from feeling an icepick pierce my forehead.

    However, it’s taken me maybe 10-15 uses to get to the point where I can tolerate it for full 20 min. I am a migraine warrior and despite how strange this thing feels, I’ve never had anything that can kick a migraine out like this. More to be revealed, but I have some real hope. I get a morning migraine 6 out seven days a week.

  • tlocker
    8 months ago

    Another downside – if it doesn’t work, you are stuck with it. As a Medical Device it cannot be sold on eBay or similar venues. Be sure you return it early if there’s any chance it’s not helping or you are out the $200-ish for something that will gather dust in your closet. I didn’t find it unpleasant, but it didn’t diminish the intensity or frequency of my migraines.

  • Grizz1y
    8 months ago

    I purchased one tried it a few times until I confirmed that it works on magnetic pulses.
    This was suggested to me from a pain specialist. I guess they were not familiar with my condition, I have Hydrocephalus and have a Programable VP Shunt. I can not go through any magnetic scans or pulses. I stopped using immediately.
    Good
    Luck with yours though.

  • Rubyredgirl
    8 months ago

    I used the Cefaly device (in Canada) about a year ago. I quickly found it made my migraines much much worse, so I returned it to Costco where I purchased it. Its too bad though because it did relax me and help me sleep.

  • JanetH
    8 months ago

    I bought a Cefaly 2 last fall, and used it faithfully for about 4 months. I did not find that it really helped my migraines, and I found the sensation rather irritating, like continuous pin pricks on my forehead and temples. Obtaining the device via a credit card was difficult. I had to contact my credit union each time so they could authorize an overseas transaction. I have a medical flex card through my job, and there was also a run-around with them about reimbursing the cost. (Of course, I had a prescription for a medical device from my neurologist’s office.) At least for the flex card, after the first transaction, I didn’t have a problem obtaining reimbursement for new electrodes.

    I’ve heard if you are Canadian, you can obtain this via Costco Canada. You cannot do that in the US.

  • ix3jvy
    8 months ago

    When will cefaly come out with the occipital device it sells in the u.k.?

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