Tens Units for Migraine and a Review of Cefaly
Cefaly for Migraines
Cefaly is a tens unit which was specifically made to not only treat but possibly even prevent migraine headaches. It is a CE and ISO certified medical device. This unit has been used to reduce and in some cases completely replace the use of pain medications—unlike these medication, Cefaly is effective without having the same harmful side effects.
Cefaly also happens to be the first device that the FDA has approved of to use before the onset of a migraine, in order to take preventative action. To read more about what the FDA has to say about Cefaly check out this page. It is also the very first cranial analgesic electrotherapeutic unit which has acquired ISO medical certification that the device is effective and does not cause side effects.
How the Device Operates
How does Cefaly work?
The trigeminal nerve often plays a role in the presence of migraines. This nerve ends near the eye socket and it is positioned near the surface of the forehead, relatively close to the skin. The Cefaly headband is used in order to target this nerve and effectively treat the pain.
This tens unit for migraine headaches connects to an electrode placed on the forehead, and this allows Cefaly to send micro-impulses to the trigeminal nerve, thereby stimulating the nerve endings. This creates a relaxing effect on you.
Through repetition you can reduce the frequency of migraine attacks or headaches.
There are no short-term or long-term dangers with the Cefaly device as it was created in accordance with strict quality and safety standards.
How to Use Cefaly
Let's talk about how to use a tens unit for migraines.
The device is lightweight, portable, and small. Self adhesive electrodes somewhat resembling a pair of eyeglasses or a headband are placed right onto the forehead. To activate the session all you must do is press the button located on the front of the device.
The device runs on one single program and the intensity slowly increases. If it should become uncomfortable at any point in time it can be stabilized by pressing the button. To end the session all you have to do is remove Cefaly.
Many people need a few sessions in order to get accustomed to the feeling and reach the highest intensity level.
When you use Cefaly you will experience a tingling or massaging sensation in the area of the electrode. It is recommended to use this device for no more than 20 minutes once a day.
If you were to read the Canadian manual, however, it says that the device can actually be used all day long if it is needed. Although having the device on for longer might end up with better results, the downside is that it could lower compliance. I suggest talking to your physician or headache specialist for your specific needs.
One possible flaw of the device is that it is sometimes somewhat noisy. Of course, if you are prone to migraines these beeping sounds can be aggravating. It will beep when turned on, paused, or if it is bumped and the connection is disrupted.
Batteries and Electrodes
Cefaly is powered by 2 AAA batteries, each 1.5 V. These batteries fit into the inside of the band. If you use the device for 20 minutes a day the Cefaly website states that batteries will need to be replaced on a monthly basis.
Electrodes generally last about 20 sessions, but if you take extra good care of them they may endure a little longer. Each electrode contains conductive gel, and this gel has to stay moist in order for the device to function as it should.
To prolong the life of your electrodes store them in a plastic bag.
Using Cefaly While Engaging in Activities
You must be careful using Cefaly while doing other activities. Some people experienced great pain while walking and wearing the device. Moving your head can also cause the device to lose connection to the electrode.
If you choose to use Cefaly be prepared to do so while resting and lying down, or at least sitting, according to Cefaly migraine device reviews.
Studies Regarding Cefaly
Over the course of Cefaly's development many different studies were conducted specifically utilizing the device. To validate the clinical effectiveness of the device more than five thousand total treatments were included. To learn more about these studies go here.
One specific study about Cefaly was published in Neurology in 2013 and it was conducted by headache specialist Dr. Jean Schoenen along with his colleagues. This was one of the most rigorous and scientific studies done regarding Cefaly. The trial took place at five different Belgian tertiary headache clinics.
The 67 subjects involved in the study had a minimum of two migraine attacks every month. They were placed into two groups that used either verum (Cefaly) or sham (placebo) stimulation for 20 minutes daily over the course of three months.
In the verum group migraine days decreased, as did monthly acute antimigraine drug intake compared with the sham group. Cefaly reduced the average of migraines from seven a month to five.
Prescription and Insurance
This device is not a drug, but it is indeed a prescription-only medical device in the U.S. It is intended for adults (18 and older) who experience frequent migraine attacks—generally between two and eight migraines every month.
Cefaly is a powerful medical device. It is also the very first such unit which offers external cranial neurostimulation. According to U.S. Regulations such a device can only be acquired with the use of a prescription.
If you were wondering if Cefaly is covered by insurance it does not have the required billing code for insurance coverage at the time of this writing. I have, however, seen some people say that their insurance companies covered the device just like they would any other TENS unit, so ask your insurance company and see what they say.
As I mentioned before, Cefaly is safe to use without worrying about side effects. A very small percentage of people (4.3%) did experience some extremely minor and easily reversible side effects. The worst side effect was mere skin irritation, which was due to the gel used in the electrode.
Other Cefaly side effects included: insomnia, sleepiness during device use, tension-type headache, allergic reaction at electrode site, and intolerance to the buzzing sensation, or pain.
Who Should Use Cefaly
When it comes to who Cefaly is best for it first depends somewhat on your budget, as prices can run a bit high—but we will get into that more later. The Cefaly anti-migraine device is a good choice for people suffering from allodynia.
It is also good for those who either don't receive enough relief from medication, or have reasons for not using as much pain meds, either because of personal preference or frequency and severity of migraines.
Can Other Tens Units Be Used as an Alternative to Cefaly?
Are you wondering if a regular TENS device can be used in place of Cefaly to offer the same migraine prevention/relief? This is a very common question, and I will try to give you some additional information so you can make this choice for yourself.
There is some debate about whether or not one can use another TENS units instead of Cefaly. While some professionals warn against it, like Brian Plato, D.O, others, like Alexander Mauskop M.D, in fact suggest doing so.
Dr. Mauskop suggests that regular tens devices are much less expensive and add more options for adjusting frequency, current, and duration. On the other hand he also says that Cefaly could have an advantage over ordinary TENS units because of the specific current it uses and the convenient design of the device.
If the Cefaly does have some sort of specific frequency that offers better relief to migraines, however, any engineer could simply hook up the device to a monitor and figure out what these electrical settings are.
Many tens units instructions, experts, and forums strongly advise against using a tens device on your head. This is because an ordinary tens unit may prove to have too strong of a current.
I have read testimonials from people who have used an ordinary tens unit for headaches or migraines with success. Many of these people, however, seem to apply the electrodes to their necks, shoulders, or arms, rather than actually putting them directly on the head.
I can't give you a definitive answer as to whether or not you should use a regular tens device instead, but this is what I know about the issue.
Proper Electrode Placement for Migraines
In one placement atlas I have read about tens unit placement for migraines. It said that two electrodes should be placed on the upper neck, one on the shoulder near the base of the neck (and on the side that is having pain), and, finally, one electrode on the side of the forehead on the effected side.
Where to Buy & Price
Cefaly is priced somewhat high which might be a problem for those looking to purchase the device. You can find Cefaly on www.cefaly.ca for $350. It costs about $300 on costco.ca but it can't be found on costco.com. On costco.ca there have been 51 customer reviews resulting in a 4.5 star rating. 41 users gave the device five stars. In general Cefaly reviews seem to be positive.
I found Cefaly on amazon.ca here.