It’s now been 2 and half months since I’ve been using the Cefaly device. Am I cured? Nope. But hey, did you really expect that to be the case? Has it helped? Yes.
Should you go out and buy one? Well, before you go out and spend a few hundred dollars, it's worth understanding what you're in for.
Rarely are things so simple with migraines.
What I did with the device over the past 2 and a half months:
- I’ve used the device whilst doing breathing exercises & meditating. Great.
- I used the device whilst working on the computer, watching TV, eating dinner, brushing my teeth. Ok.
- I’ve accidentally fallen asleep with it and woken up with electrode still attached to my forehead the next morning and the device buried in my bed. Not good.
I think it’s safe to say I have stress-tested the device.
Falling asleep with the device is a not a good idea. You can damage the device itself and ruin the electrode. At the very least you'll quickly wear out the electrodes which need to remain in good order to function properly. They are replaceable but not cheap.
Over the last few months the benefit from the Cefaly device has become clearer. All else being equal, for me it delivers approx a 30% improvement to my overall migraine baseline.
What does that mean?
To provide a little background, on a given day I objectively measure my migraine risk, or my ‘migrainey-ness’. It’s like evaluating how tired you feel on a particular day, except it's for your migraine condition.
This helps me evaluate my condition everyday, not just when I have an attack, as I may only have 1 or 2 attacks in a given month (down from over 15). See article Who I Saw, What I Tried & How I Recovered From Chronic Migraines. But I still notice my condition most days.
In one month I might feel great the whole time. Another month I might feel on edge. I’ll experience vertigo, moodiness, light sensitivity, numbness or coloured spots – all of which would cause my me to rate my migraine risk higher throughout that period.
So ‘migraine risk’ is an important indicator which I track daily. I also use it to help evaluate the effectiveness of any new treatments like the Cefaly device and uncover potential triggers.
My expectations were not high. After reading that the device only helps with the front part of the upper head from the eyes to the top of the forehead, see my previous Cefaly review for details, I was pleasantly surprised by the early results which were largely sustained over the last few months.
But, over the last 2.5 months, I’ve had 3 migraines whilst I’ve been using the Cefaly device. While, this is great versus my long term average, this is much higher than my usual baseline of one every 2-3 months.
The chart below shows my Migraine risk in with the blue bars. My 3 migraine attacks in orange. And my numerous triggers lines alongside them. Overall - not fantastic. I experienced moderate (medium) levels of migraine risk consistently over the last few months.
Image source: MigrainePal diary
Here's what happened
I got busy.
Work started to creep into the weekends. But I decided to let to that continue as I thought I could handle it because the Cefaly device was working.
I was spending more time under fluorescent lights because of work. Working from a laptop and not a monitor meaning that my neck was constantly flexed downward at the screen. This created a poor posture when my neck was already an identified trigger for my migraines. Not an ideal situation.
I also stopped meditating. With less time on my hands something had to give I and simply didn’t keep up the discipline.
I also had a wedding and 2 other events were I drank alcohol and missed several nights of good sleep.
So with my system loaded with a higher level of stressors than average then topping it off with alcohol and a lack of sleep – it all caught up with me. From the graph you can see that I have 3-6 triggers which can flair up. When they jump up together, you'll notice the result = migraine as you can see on the chart. I can withstand one or two triggers flaring up. But not much more than that.
Now of course, writing this down it all seems fairly obvious. But that’s the problem. When you’re living in the moment, it is very difficult to objectively self assess your own situation. I’ve been doing it for years and I still put myself into silly situations like this. But at least having this record I can see clearly what I'm doing.
The Cefaly device is helpful and worthwhile. And I still use it everyday. But it’s no cure. It’s not a miracle worker. You can’t use it as an excuse to go back to all your bad habits.
If you’re complacent about your condition, Cefaly won’t save you. Just as other treatments probably won't.
Cefaly works best when you keep up your self discipline and do the obvious things that a migraineur needs to do to keep their condition in check. Get the right balance of rest, relaxation, exercise and work. And make sure your diet is on track.
To get the best results from the device, I use the device whilst doing breathing exercises or meditating rather than watching TV or doing other activities.
It’s worth mentioning that the device connects to electrodes that stick onto your head. This sounds scary. It’s not once you get used it. You stick a triangular band-aid looking electrode with a tiny handle, which acts as a small latch for the Cefaly device to attach to.
Because these attach to your skin directly, they eventually lose their adhesiveness. You get approx 20 sessions out of them. So they need replacing. A little annoying.
Make sure to clean your forehead, ideally with alcohol before applying the electrode to help prolong it’s life. I often use a skin moisturiser after use to prevent drying out my skin.
Prices updated 29 August 2016.
In the US the device itself is $349 with shipping typically $29. A 3 pack of electrodes is $25 with an additional $5 for shipping.
Renting a Cefaly device
The device itself can also be rented to trial this treatment option. This might be a suitable approach to if you are unsure about whether the device will deliver results or if you don't have the full funds available upfront.
Where to find Cefaly devices
Prices as at 31 March 2016:
- USA www.cefaly.us for $349. You’ll need a copy of your prescription before they’ll send you a device.
- Australia – Cheapest place to get them is from the Brain Foundation for $390 AUD. Otherwise they can sell in the pharmacy for up to $450. Make sure you check your health plan for rebates as you could get over $100 back. Cefaly devices can also be rented and bought from www.cefaly.com.au
- UK www.cefaly.co.uk for £249 pounds for Cefaly II
- Canada www.cefaly.ca for $349.99 Canadian dollars.
Currently, the Cefaly device appears to be a worthy utility to add to the patient toolkit. It is one that I now use in my daily regime.
I’ve heard someone say their device lost effectiveness over the course of 6 months. I haven’t noticed this affect yet. But I will continue to use the device to see if this occurs between the next 3-6 months.
**Late edit: After 18 months of use***
Time has flown. It's been 18 months since my first review of the Cefaly device and I still have my device and yes, I still use it.
I have to confess I'm not a daily user like I used to be. I did use it daily or very consistently for the first 12 months or so. I did notice an improvement and an improvement in my migraine threshold or resilience. But I do feel like my results reached a plateau at this new improved level after this time.
Having said that, if I get I migraine attack or if I begin to feel vulnerable, I pull out the device and start using it everyday until I go back to my usual 'low vulnerability' baseline.
I'm glad I have the tool and have not noticed any unwelcomed side effects.
If you have any questions you’d like to ask let me know in the comments below and I’ll answer them.
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