I’ve been sporting this ridiculous thing on my noggin at least three times a day for over three months now, sometimes in public, and I think it’s been helping.
When my Cefaly arrived in the mail from Costco.ca (thanks Dad), I quickly de-greased my forehead, ripped open an electrode, slapped that thing on my face and started Cefalying with high hopes. Having no previous experience with TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) devices, I had no idea what to expect. My best description so far is “forehead massage by hyperactive, gently stinging jellyfish,” which doesn’t sound too pleasant, and it’s not exactly.
At first the experience was quite uncomfortable; I wouldn’t say painful — especially compared to migraine pain — but some friends who have tried it are not big fans. I gather that just like most things having to do with pain perception, it’s different for everybody. Luckily, after a few days I actually began to find the sensation relaxing.
Supposedly, the device sends electrical signals into the trigeminal nerve, the nerve that processes pain and touch sensation in the face, while also stimulating the production of endorphins, which the internet tells me look like this:
(endorphins toys made of resin by Dave Pressler)
Though the Cefaly never makes me smile that wide, I do have some very peaceful moments with it when I can sit quietly and meditate for the duration of the 20 minute preventative program. My least enjoyable moments with the Cefaly are when I am in the midst of a full-blown migraine and am enduring the “abortive” 20 minute program over and over and over in hopes that the head pain will dull, which actually works sometimes. Occasionally, it even helps me get to sleep. I can wear it while I’m doing other stuff, but nothing involving too much movement or the Cefaly disconnects from the electrode and the program has to be started all over again. Also, I wouldn’t try to drive or answer skill testing questions during a Cefaly session. It’s far too intense for that kind of multitasking.
I am told that in order to get results from the Cefaly you must stick with it, so it has become a regular fixture in my life. It follows me from bed, to breakfast, to work, to the photocopier, to my classroom, and back home again, flashing a little red light all the while. I get some strange looks, but if that’s what it takes to minimize the pain, I frankly do not give a flying fart. Also, I think I have successfully convinced some children that it gives me telepathic powers.
Three months is really not a lot of time to gauge accurate results, but the data shows that I have enjoyed at least a 30% decrease in pain since starting to use it. There are other factors at play since I took up swimming and had another round of Botox injections in that same time frame, but I am fairly confident that the forehead-numbing and relaxation-inducing Cefaly sessions are helping. It’s rare, but still a magical, beautiful, moment when the intense abortive program on repeat can actually reduce my head pain. Usually only drugs can do that, which is a crapshoot too, and drugs have icky side effects. Cefaly has none. That’s a big deal.
30% fewer attacks is also a big deal. That’s a few more nights per month that I am not completely useless and do not feel like my world is ending.
An interesting consequence of wearing the thing in public is that it’s quite the conversation piece. I already wear ear plugs and tinted glasses, but no head gear starts a conversation like the Cefaly. In a way, it makes my condition visible, and as a result, I’ve actually had the opportunity to connect with colleagues who deal with migraine and other pain conditions. These conversations have mostly made me feel more understood and less alone. Bonus.
- Electrodes are pricey on top of the already steep $300 gadget, but will last longer if you keep them in the fridge.
- Electrodes can be carefully washed with soap and left to air dry until they are just slightly gooey, and then used a few more times.
- While wearing the Cefaly, people will say “Hey! You look like that Star Trek character…. that guy… you know… with the visor thing…” so you must be ready to say “Geordi Laforge!” even if you are not male, black, or wearing a fitted polyester uniform.
For more info, check out the official Cefaly website. The company seems to be pretty good at offering concrete evidence, but does make some overzealous claims, such as “eventually the pain will simply disappear!” Also, their models do not look like people with migraine, but rather like impeccable, inhuman, pain-free femmebots. Oh well.
Have you tried it? Thoughts?
Shoot me your Cefaly questions and I’ll do my best to help out.
p.s. If you’d like to follow the blog on Facebook and take part in migraine-related discussions there, I made a page for that: https://www.facebook.com/migrainebrainstorm
p.p.s. Buy the 2016 calendar for people with chronic pain here: migrainebrainstorm.com/shop