Why Cefaly won’t solve all our problems (and what to do instead)

Once again the solution to our problems is coming from all directions – this time it’s the Cefaly device, recently approved in the USA.  Along with that approval comes promotion promotion promotion.

Now I’m not knocking the device itself.  They Cefaly is a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) device.  This isn’t new and surprising technology for migraine, but it is a technology that is probably still in its infancy.

Cefaly has shown great promise, and does seem to help some migraine patients decrease their number of attacks (this test showed a 30% improvement).

How well it will do over the long haul – well, we’ll have to wait and see.

Again, the use of electrical and magnetic stimulation isn’t new.  What is emerging now is the use of personal devices, which is a tremendously important innovation because migraine attacks can be treated early, before the vicious cycle of symptoms gets out of control.

So I hope this device, and others like it, help many of you.

But Cefely won’t solve all our problems.  For example, it only helps with certain types of migraine, not with every headache condition.  And it’s not a cure – in fact, it will likely only lessen your attacks.

Finally, there are still a lot of patients that will not be helped at all.

So what should I do instead?

If your doctor thinks that Cefaly will help you, and you have the money to spend, give it a try.  Again, I’m not discouraging the use of Cefely.

But what if you can’t try it, don’t feel comfortable with it, or what if it just doesn’t work?

Cefaly is attractive because it’s a non-drug treatment, and it’s (fairly) convenient.  But there are other options.

If you like the idea of a gadget to help you, try a biofeedback device.  Biofeedback has a lot of scientific evidence behind it.  If you can take the time, see a specialist to get you started.

Another excellent device is the SootheAway Continuous Thermal Therapy Device, which is excellent for various types of headache.

Though some people laugh off “home remedies”, many are very helpful, and also have a lot of evidence behind them.  For example, a compress, cold and heat, and neck stretches.  More ideas on home remedies here.

Cold and heat comes in many different forms.  From an ice pack and water bottle to the much more sophisticated SootheAway Device, to simply warming your hands in hot water.

Though not quite as convenient, massage is, I believe, an under-used migraine treatment.  If you have someone who can give you a good massage at the onset of a headache, that’s great.  If not, try self-massage, or see a massage therapist for treatment and further ideas.

A great idea is to find two or three things that work for you, and then make a “kit” that’s ready, and, if possible, that travels with you, so that you’re ready for that next attack.

Don’t be discouraged!

If the Cefaly hasn’t worked for you, don’t give up.  In addition to the few treatments I’ve mentioned above, there are many, many excellent treatments available.

And remember, devices like the Cefaly are still new – if they work well, we can expect to see many more on the market in the years ahead.

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2 comments… add one
  • Suki Apr 6, 2014

    Hi James and thanks for this article and your recent focus on full body (posture, etc.) Migraine is a perfect storm of disease in all parts of my body including the skeletal and muscular so I believe in addressing all these points.
    I invest in regular deep tissue massage that is focused on trigger points – and my massage therapist who knows me well and gives me a sliding scale helps me to locate trigger points so I can address them with self-massage and stretching between appointments.
    Also on my anti-migraine team are a chiropractor and two very good yoga teachers.
    I’ve added in a cranio-sacral bodyworker. She’s local, she’s renowned and I’ve worked with her before. She’s also expensive so I can afford fewer sessions per month. Cranio-sacral is a very subtle form of bodywork and the jury’s still out on whether it’s helping me. I had 72 symptom-free hours after my last session, but I do not attribute that to the bodywork specifically (yet).
    If someone wants to try it, I recommend finding a cranio-sacral therapist who is already very experienced in this practice and has a track record with migraine/headache disorders.

  • Katie Nov 25, 2016

    I have allodynia and I found this device too painful. Like trying to distract yourself from the migraine by hitting yourself in the forehead.

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