Cefaly: a review

cefaly- a review

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.

cefaly 3

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


  1. I’ve got to say, when I heard about these I thought they were full of, well, you know. How could a Star Trek visor do anything for migraine without an accompanying hypospray or, yes, polyester suit? Your review is not only hilarious, but makes me think I should give them a second look (and actually go to the website)!

    1. Yeah, I was totally skeptical too! It was developed by neurologists though, and seems to help for most folks who stick with it. Kind of awesome!!

  2. melanie chivers · · Reply

    I I have suffered from chronic headaches and migraine all of my life.I am 49,female and struggling.Have tried everything on Gods earth.Had bad accident age four,head injury.Is this worth a last try?

    1. Hi Melanie. Sounds like you’ve had more than your fair share of migraine trials. The worst thing that can happen if you buy the Cefaly is that you’ll lose some cash. As far as I know there are no side effects except for a bit of sleepiness. Having had such success so far, I say go for it, but it’s good to be realistic: it’s really just another tool to add to our toolbox. No migraine miracles out there yet. Best of luck to you! If you try it please let me know how it goes!

    2. Anonymous · · Reply

      Botox for migraines is incredible!

      1. Yup, I gather it makes a difference for about 50% of migraine sufferers. Not sure what it’s done for me. Too bad it’s so wildly unaffordable for people who don’t have private insurance.

  3. My OB doctor had told me about these a little while back. I was excited to see you’ve tried them, and that you have gotten some relief! 🙂
    You’d be a hit if you ever went to a Star Trek convention in yours!! 🙂

  4. I wonder if they are effective for migraines with low levels of pain? I have stroke-like symptoms (aphasia, slurred speech, loss of balance and coordination, confusion etc) but relatively low levels of pain. So far nothing has proved effective in treating them or have side effects that are worse than the migraine itself.

    1. Hi Barry, I’m not sure. It may be worth contacting the company or a headache specialist with Cefaly experience if you can find one. I certainly don’t think it would hurt, but best to get a second opinion on that too. Sounds like your migraines are quite different than mine.

  5. This is awesome. I have been using TENS for years on my knees, back, shoulders but had no idea you could get something for the head! I also use my TENS machine in the classroom. The students now know that if they can see wires Miss is in pain so they should probably behave 🙂

    1. Sometimes it’s really helpful to have a visible indicator!

  6. Two thumbs up! Love your humor. May I post a mini-blog directing people to your review?

    1. Of course! Thanks Tammy. Hope you are enjoying some migraine free days!

  7. Audrey Allison · · Reply

    I have one and use it frequently. It is the only thing that has made a noticeable difference in the frequency of my migraines. I now have a few days a month without a migraine! I have tried many drugs and botox, but cefaly is the best. I thought it was all bogus, but I am so happy I gave it a try.

    I love the idea of wearing it in public. It could really help people understand my “invisible disease” better.

    1. So glad it’s helped you too!

  8. I’ve been using Cefaly daily since shortly after it was approved by the FDA. Although it’s not a pleasant experience, especially at first, I do think the device has made a real difference in the frequency and severity of migraines. I have a single-mode unit which is only supposed to be used for prevention; but, I’ve found it to be useful in treating the early stages and often able to abort a migraine. When the unit is on, I can definitely tell that it is working on the same nerves that flare up during a migraine. I’m so glad someone has finally come up with something that actually helps.

    1. Diane, I’m so glad it’s helping you too!! Now if they can only re-design it to be a bit less princess-of-an-outer-galaxy…

  9. So, I’m in the US and only the preventative model is available here. Do you think it’s worth it to go through back channels to get the three-mode version? Thank you!

    1. I would say there’s not a huge difference between the preventative and abortive modes. It’s mostly for prevention anyway, so I’d think the simpler model could still be beneficial.

  10. My VA neuro doctor just ordered this device for me today. I suffer from cluster headaches 2 times a month, 3-6 days at a time. I am willing to give this a shot. I have been on every medication out there for the past 9 years. I also have a D3 regimen that I do and gave up animal products 5 days a week. During my cluster cycles, no animal. If this device helps even a little bit. I will be over the moon. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  11. I got the 3 level model from Australia-there is a real noticeable difference in abortive level than preventive intensity

  12. I just found your blog and I love your review. I, too, just got a Cefaly in the US which means I only have the one mode. Perhaps you can answer a question for me. I am finding much success with using the Cefaly at the onset of a migraine which drastically reduces its severity. Because of this, I think I may have even better luck with the Cefaly that offers the abortive mode. What I wonder is how big of a difference there is between the abortive mode and the “US mode” and if the hassle of returning mine, ordering a new one to be sent to a friend in Canada and then having that friend send it to me. Any thoughts? Thanks in advance.

    1. Hi there! The abortive session is just a bit stronger. I don’t notice a big difference between the programs. Sometimes I put the preventative program on by accident during an attack and it still helps. Might not be worth the trouble?

      1. Anonymous · · Reply

        Thank you so much for your reply!!

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