Cefaly review: Does this device work?

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 it’s price tag of $359 dollars (AUD or $349 USD).

As I’m in Australia the cheapest place I could find the device was through the Headache Australia’s website for $320.

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

Cefaly image with MigrainePalThe 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 it’s 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 it 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.


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22 thoughts on “Cefaly review: Does this device work?

    • Hi Wendy, you can get them on Amazon.uk. If you were very interested you could probably arrange for shipping to your location… One thing that I’ll mention in the next post is that the Cefaly device requires repurchasing of electrodes. You get a supply that lasts approx 2-3 months in the pack. But then you have to repurchase electrodes to keep the Cefaly operational. Little bit of a pain. But so far it’s continued to be helpful, it doesn’t feel like it’s a cure for me, but it feels like it’s assisting. I’ll share another update after the 1 month mark.

  1. Very interesting and honest review. I have also been using Cefaly for more than six months now. I don’t use it as prevention as I only get 1-2 migraines per month (that each last for three very long days each). I use it to treat attacks. I am unable to take any kind of migraine medication other than Panadol(!), so this device has been a life saver for me. For me it doesn’t actually get rid of the migraine, but while I am actually wearing the device, I am totally pain free. Obviously I can’t go out in public with it on, but while at home I can read, watch tv, do household chores, etc., things I could obviously never do with a migraine. It’s amazing to be out of the darkened bedroom, and I’m so happy I with it. When I feel a migraine starting, instead of the despair of facing 3 days alone in the dark in pain, it is such a relief to know I can put the device on and be pain free in just minutes. The only thing I wish was that it did not have to be turned on again every 20 minutes, so you can’t really keep it on at night to sleep.

  2. HI Mark …As I am a migraine suffer for the last 8 years and are on medication just like you is it possible to tell me what medication you are taken for your migraines .I have daily migraines and headache and the medication has put weight on ,just wondering if they is anything you can take that don’t put weight on ..any help would be appreciated…Kind Regards Melissa

  3. Started using mine a week ago, decided after an excellent week to stop my preventative and got a migraine! But the Cefaly definitely stops daily migraines and or fog after just a week. I think it’ll be amazing and can’t wait to review again after a month

  4. Hi Melissa, have you looked at your diet? I suffered from chronic daily headaches and migraines, and tried many medications etc. but nothing helped. Then I started the FAILSAFE diet, which cuts out certain food chemicals, preservatives, and additives, and I feel so much better as a result. My headaches are now controllable. Let me know if you’d like some more info – I’ve been where you’re at and no fun 😦 Cheers, Ciara

    • Thanks Ciara What is the failsafe diet never heard of it ,I am on lyrica which has put weight on me I am on trial with the Cefaly and it has helped me but still on heavy medication had to give work away 18 th ago due to my migraine so any help would be appreciated. Kind Regards Melissa Dwyer (Wauchope)..

  5. Nice detailed review. I always like to read the unbiased, real world cases. Thanks for sharing!

    FYI…I’d recommend that you also take a look at the “Kit Arnold” which is the option for the Cefaly. It is an electrode(using the same “headset”) which stimulates the Suboccipital área(base of the skull) and the nerves therein. Folks who suffer from fibromialgia really love that option. It uses a simple transmission gel(same as used for other TENS devices). The Kit Arnold is under $100 in all markets(that I’ve seen) and for me it doubles the value of the CEFALY(because I’m able to use the same device w/2 different electrodes and positively impact 2 áreas of pain). I suspect that if you had been able to use the Kit Arnold (after reading the laptop in bed) you would have been very satisfied with the impact.
    Glad you folks in AU have the EU model(same as us in CR w/all 3 programs)! The US and Canadian models only have the 2nd program(prevention) 😦
    Note -FYIs: Most users perceive the intensity is “stronger” using the Supraorbital Electrode(the electrode for the front of your head).

      • Sure Melissa.
        I know that they are available on the CEFALY.com website for folks in mainland Europe(I don’t see it as an orderable option for the UK or US). I have an email in to the Factory asking what global limitations might be on shipping/selling the Kit Arnold in various markets(i.e.-not sure if prescriptions are needed in certain markets or if Health Dept permissions are pending approval, etc.). In Costa Rica we expect to have the Kit Arnold available in approximately 6 months time (April or May of next year). I do know that we are restricted(as are the folks in EU) from shipping the Cefaly unit to the US; however, I’m not sure if this also applies to the Kit Arnold. As soon as I get an answer from the folks in Belgium I’ll gladly share it with everyone here.

      • Thanks for your reply ,I look forward hearing from you regarding the Arnold device ,I have been using the Cefaly for nearly 3 weeks had good results ,can you tell me I having been having blocked ears and they need to pop feeling is this normal for the cefaly to happen or maybe have a ear infection ….. Kind regards Melissa Dwyer

  6. It’s been over a month since I started using the Cefaly and although it hasn’t stopped the migraines, I’m now averaging one a week instead of almost daily. Secondly, I don’t wake up in the morning with a pre-migraine fuggy feeling as if one’s about to start. Thirdly, every night I’ve been able to get to sleep without any pills (that’s amazing for a post-menopausal woman). So for me the Cefaly works and I use it on the 2nd setting every night, on the 1st setting if I’ve got a migraine (I take Naramig for the migraine) and am waiting for the meds to work. I think it’s brilliant and I’d recommend it to anyone particularly if they can trial it for a month free of charge, as I did from the Brain Foundation in Australia. They also sell it cheaply too (and it’s tax deductable) at $320

  7. Pingback: Cefaly review part two: Results after 2.5 months | MigrainePal Blog

  8. I have been a victim of daily headaches with Migraines which average 11 to 16 per month for the last 26 years. Without rescue treatment such as steroids, my pain would probably never cease. With rescue medication the average time for pain to discontinue is 3 days but then it returns within 24 hours. I do not respond to any type of preventative dietary restrictions, holistic, naturopathic or western medical treatments. My life consists of scheduling my diet, activities, travel, personal and professional desires around my ‘head’. I consider my pain debilitating which includes nausea, abdominal distress, photophobia, phonophobia, irritability, weakness, severe cognitive dysfunction, slurred speech and pain that is so unbearable I almost cannot take it. I received my CEFALY medical device three days ago which was great timing as I was attacked with a migraine the same day. I waited until just before bedtime to use it so I could take my time learning the ropes. I prayed for my Lord and Savior Yeshua to use this device to heal or decrease the pain severity and frequency prior to my use. Day One I read the instructions carefully and then jumped right in to use it with the attitude I can’t give up but rather I have to keep looking for anything to release me from this bondage of pain. I turned on the power button and I was shocked the track the device followed of the nerves mimicked the exact location where I was experiencing the migraine! Along the nerve I felt a tightening that was linear and a Z shape which ended into the middle of my right eye! Crazy! I have never had ANYTHING track the exact outline of my pain associated with the migraine. That was startling but interesting. I describe medications I have used for the migraine pain as a blanket covering but you can still feel the pain underneath and then eventually the cover is removed and the rebound is worse than the migraine pain. I did not feel the device induced pain but actually relaxed me. The migraine pain I experience begins in my right eye and then takes over my head and neck, yet the Cefaly seemed to hit the very outline of the pain in my head with the sensation I wanted to keep the right eye shut and it wanted to water but didn’t. The 20 minute time limit seemed to fly……it certainly did not seem like 20 minutes. I wanted to wear it longer but followed the instructions exactly and put it away. After removal of the device my scalp, forehead, nose and both cheeks felt numb with no more pain in my right eye. Day Two after using Cefaly I did not have a migraine and upon awakening I did not have a headache or brain fog. Usually throughout the day I get nausea without the migraine, yet I did not after Day One. On Day Two I used the Cefaly and experienced the same sensation as Day One. Tonight is Day Three and I found your BLOG! I am typing with the Cefaly onboard. Upon awakening this morning I did not have a headache or brain fog or feel like I was wiped out. I did experience a bout of nausea this evening just before applying the Cefaly. Again, the Cefaly follows the exact outline of the trail of the migraines……….just so bizarre………….how does it do that? It seems to have a relaxing sensation to the head, scalp and my right eye as if someone is sticking millions of tiny pointy objects the size of toothpicks all over the top of my scalp and a pulling sensation to the scalp at the same time and yet my scalp, forehead, face and right eye are numb. Tonight I was able to keep my right eye open and type on the laptop comfortably without any problem and even increased the intensity a bit. It is very, very, very difficult to be optimistic when so many things have let me down but I cannot give up. I will continue to use the Cefaly exactly as recommended and follow your blog to share my experiences. So glad to meet you all and find it reassuring to read your experiences! As a chronic migraine sufferer it is a very isolated life with very little empathy from folks that have never experienced sickening pain in the head everyday. I look forward to ANY positive results great or small associated with the Cefaly.

  9. I’ve the Cefaly for about a week now, and the 1st time I used it I was already headachey and nauseous, and actually vomited after it got really intense. The second day when it started hurting again, I felt nauseous . So,immediately turned it off, to prevent vomiting some more!!! 3rd day I placed it a lot higher on my forehead and didn’t have as much pain associated with that. I’ve used the cephaly daily and even leaf it on the full settings. Have vomited during the day an like a half vomit in my mouth again when I was. It kind of hearts after goes to the highest setting.
    Thanks,
    For y’all input!!!

    • Woah… if it’s causing all that pain and nausea then stop. The Cefaly device builds up gradually so as you feel the levels getting uncomfortable then click front button of the device and it should hold steady at that level of intensity. Over time as you become less sensitive you can gradually increase as your threshold improves. But you should definitely not being getting sick from the device! Hope that helps Mark.

  10. Its now 5 months since I started and although up to December I was having great results i.e. few migraines and zero fog, since Xmas I’ve noticed an increasing return to the old pattern of daily fog/migraines. Now, I have not changed the electrode since Dec 4th because it’s still intact and so I thougt I’d save money! And although I’ve been moistening it every 10-14 days, I’m now wondering if it’s not working as efficaciously as it was before because the electrode is well passed its use by date. Has anyone else noticed this? Still taking Sandomigran daily and Naramig for migraines, but it was getting rid of the daily morning fog that I needed the Cefaly for most.
    Thanks, Mary

    • Hi Mary, there is a very simple and relatively cheap way to test if it due to the electrode wearing out. That is, buy a new electrode or new pack. And see if that helps. There may be another factor at play which often affects me. As I discover new treatments which help my condition – I often relax and become less disciplined in other areas, i.e. I starting eating more trigger foods, getting less sleep, drinking and going out more etc. because I know the treatment is working. But over time this adds too much stress onto my nervous system and eventually it load becomes too much even for the successful treatment. So ask yourself, how have you been managing the other areas of your life? Has this changed since you’ve had the Cefaly device? Have you relaxed a little? Because this could also be playing a role in your condition. Either way, I’d be very interested to hear your results!

  11. UPDATE: It has been 2 months since I started using Cefaly. I use it EVERY SINGLE DAY. I use it for atleast 40 minutes, sometimes sleep with it on and just turn it back on every time I wake up and/or wear it during the day. The brain fog dream like state has improved drastically. The daily headaches are down to approximately 2 a week from 7 days a week 24 hours a day. Now when I take my rescue meds they reverse the pain where as before Cefaly I was visiting the E.R. monthly. My concentration is amazingly improved. My bouts of nausea without pain has decreased. I don’t feel the pre- post- migraine depression or ‘post migraine hang over’ as intensely. The key is you must wear this device every day on a freshly cleaned forehead (without makeup or lotion). I baby this device gently tucking it away in its case so as to prevent damage. I will use this device for the rest of my life if it will keep me at the stage I am now. I am optimistic the longer I wear it the better my symptoms will be until they are reversed completely. Hang in there migraine victims. Another thought to add for those of you seeking a cure is to consider a Gluten Free diet. One out of every three Americans has a Gluten Allergy or Sensitivity. A Gluten Allergy or Sensitivity carries approximately 300 symptoms which include but are not limited to migraines, headaches, depression, GI symptoms (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea). This is a life threatening condition which can and will lead to severe autoimmune conditions and even cancers of the GI tract. I removed Gluten from my diet in a strict to include no cross contamination fashion and saw an immediate response in 24 hours concerning my GI tract and daily headaches. I will never go back to Gluten!

  12. Thanks for your comments Mustang. Great to see you’re having such dramatic and positive results with the device! Lets hope you continue to improve. I can also relate to your Gluten intolerance. I avoid gluten myself and I’ve seen research suggesting that a significant proportion of migraineurs are gluten intolerant so it’s an idea if you’re a migraineur and you haven’t tried it yet. Exclude gluten from your diet and see how you feel for a few weeks. The results could surprise you.

  13. Hi, I have been using the Cefaly 2 device since November 2016 and did not notice any change in the number of migraines that I experienced until I also started using the Arnold extension kit, which transfers the electronic stimulation to the back of the head, along the occiput. I have only had one migraine in three months since then. I do not use preventative medication as my migraines occur only 2-3 times each month. Even so, on that basis I have had one migraine instead of 6-9, and I get hardly any headaches, whereas I used to get severe headaches after exercise or unusual exertion.
    I am so happy with this device, which is the Cefaly 2 and Arnold extension kit, that I would recommend it to fellow migraineurs without hesitation.

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