Cefaly migraine TENS device review: Does it work?

 
Cefaly device for migraine
 

There has been plenty of PR and news about the new Star Trek looking TENS units from Cefaly. And after much discussion within the MigrainePal community forums about the device I decided to try one and share my journey with everyone as I went along. The goal is to review the device from an honest perspective. To evaluate what all the fuss is about and whether the Cefaly device is something worth considering given its price tag of $400 dollars (AUD or around $349 USD).

As I’m in Australia the cheapest place I could find the device was through the Headache Australia’s website for $390. Price updated April 1, 2017. Some health insurers are now providing attractive rebates. 

Background

For those that haven’t heard anything about the Cefaly device here is a quick intro. The Cefaly device is a type of TENS unit.

T.E.N.S. stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. Sounds kinda scary but the device has been approved in the US, UK, Austalia & Canada by health regulators as a medical device to help treat and prevent migraines.

Side effects are reportedly minimal, the instruction manual cites there is a tendenacy towards sleepiness but otherwise little else. This side effect would be welcomed by many if they were experiencing a migraine. They do mention however that 3% of people may be hyper sensitive to electricity and therefore are not able to use the device.

Indications

The device is supposed to be used for a minimum of 20 mins a day to help prevent migraines. Although there are 2 other settings to you can use one for treating an acute attack and another program for stress and anxiety.

In the manual it does suggest that Cefaly is most beneficial when pain is located in the front half of the skull. Cefaly doesn’t have any proven benefit for pain located at the back of the skull or the lower part of the face, below the eyes.

Personally, I suspect my migraines are heavily driven by a shoulder injury and from my neck (cervicogenic headache) but I still do get pain and tension headaches in the front part of my head so I’m still hopeful this will help.

I’m also working way too much these days, so anything that can help manage stress or force me to take a 20 min time out everyday is a good thing.

The manual claims that a “state of deep relaxation and an unprecedented sense of well-being are generated through deep muscle relaxation and a marked increase in endorphin secretion”. Sounds nice…

Given that I’ve meditated on and off for the last 9 years I know what that could feel like. I’ve also been to a day spa. So they have certainly set a high benchmark in my mind. Let’s see if they can deliver.

What to expect (before I’ve tried it)

The expected results apparently will vary by individual. And the more you use the device the better they say.

The program I’m going to aim for is the migraine prevention. The best responders experience an improvement within just a few weeks. Others respond more slowly and need a few months to see significant improvement.

My migraine attacks are at about 1 per month – but if I stop managing myself or come off my medications they could easily be 1-2 a week or more. At its worst I was getting 5-6 attacks a week. So I’m keen to see if this can help increase my migraine threshold, reduce my attacks and help me come off heavy medications.

That’s the goal. Let’s see what happens…

* * * 20 mins later after my first use ***

Ok. Interesting.

After reading the manual and expecting a strange sensation I still wasn’t quite prepared for what occurred.

After following the instructions and sticking an electrode to my head I began the session. There was two mins of a gentle build up. A few pins and needles. No major drama.

I had read in the manual that the intensity of the device increases gradually for the first 12 minutes. So I set my timer on my phone so I could see if I could go the full strength first go and off I went.

You can easily stop the increase in the intensity and or end the session at any time but I wanted to see how far I could go. Afterall the more sessions you have at full capacity the better according to the manual. And the pain is largely pschyological it explains.

I made it past the 12 min mark. But it didn’t feel like it leveled out in intensity. I would not describe the discomfort anywhere near the same level of pain as migraine. So don’t worry about that. But at times it can be uncomfortable. I certainly couldn’t carry on doing normal tasks (this does get better as you use it over time).

To describe the sensation. It felt like someone was combing my hair with a heavy metal comb. Whilst putting all their weight on their other hand pressing down in the middle of my forehead. Mixed with a flurry of pins and needles.

How did I feel afterwards?

Pretty good. Right after it stopped I felt great. It’s similar to the feeling of finishing a long race. It’s a feeling that’s half achievement half endorphin release in your body because you're so happy you’ve just stopped whatever you were doing :)

30 mins later and my head is still a little numb and tingly.

*** 11 days of continuous use ***

On my third day I was feeling fantastic and reading my laptop in bed, I hadn’t eaten or taken my preventatives yet which I usually take first thing and my neck was in a bad position. And I promptly gave myself a migraine after an hour.

Sounds silly in hindsight, but it’s so easy to do. Apart from that attack I’ve felt pretty good.

I’ve definitely noticed a difference. Particularly in relation to “brain fog”. Whether this is a side effect from my medication or the migraine itself is hard to tell, but regardless, the Cefaly device is noticeably helping with this.

It is also helping with my sensitivity to light to a certain extent.

So with 11 days gone, I’ve made a silly mistake, but also seen some promising results. So I'll ensure I continue to use the device at least for another month continuously. And I definitely won't be reading the laptop in bed again, no matter how good I'm feeling :/

Let me know if you have any questions in regards to my experiences in the comments below. I'll respond to your comment :)

Post Edit: This was part 1 of a 2 part review. Read my results in the follow up article after using the Cefaly device for a few months >>