Cefaly And Migraines: Does It Really Work?

A migraine is a painful and disabling condition characterized by a throbbing pain in the head, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. A 2016 cross-sectional study¹ by the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors (GBD) estimated that migraines and tension-related headaches affect about 3 billion people worldwide. Thankfully, we can manage migraine attacks with medications and preventative therapies.

Cefaly migraine therapy is growing in popularity as an effective drug-free treatment.

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We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Migraine, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

What is Cefaly?

The Cefaly Dual Device is a non-drug treatment that you place on your forehead for migraine relief. It uses a therapy called external trigeminal nerve stimulation (eTNS). eTNS release electrical impulses that tell your brain to stop producing chemicals that raise the intensity and frequency of migraine attacks.

Who is it for?

Designed as a wearable device, Cefaly is for people with acute and chronic migraines. You should only use Cefaly migraine therapy when you're sure that migraines are responsible for the pain. Your doctor may offer it as alternative therapy when drug treatments do not work.

It’s not suitable for people with metallic head implants or those with a cardiac pacemaker. 

If any of the following apply, you may require a doctor's approval:

  • Over 65 years old

  • Under 18 years old

  • If you’re pregnant

  • If you have suffered a previous head injury or seizure

  • If you have a heart condition

Does Cefaly work for migraines?

Cefaly is an FDA-approved alternative preventative treatment for migraine headaches. Studies show the effectiveness of the therapy in managing migraine attacks. 

A 2019 study² used electrical stimulation on a randomized group of people and compared the results with a control group. Around 59% of those who received the stimulation recorded reduced pain levels compared to only 30% in the control group. In 2018, researchers reviewed Cefaly's effectiveness³ and found that regular usage alters the electrical pulses of the trigeminal nerve, reducing the intensity and frequency of migraines.

As a non-invasive treatment, Cefaly migraine therapy offers a promising solution for people who couldn't use anti-migraine medications because of the intolerable side effects. More studies might be needed to review its long-term efficacy and side effects, but the current results show that its regular use helps stop migraine symptoms.

What are the side effects of the Cefaly device?

No serious side effects have been reported, but some people have complained of drowsiness and skin irritation. A tingling sensation is common but not uncomfortable or painful enough to stop treatment.

How is it used?

Cefaly prevents migraines through regular use. Users should wear the device for 20 minutes each day for prevention. For migraine pain relief, 60-minute treatment is ideal. 

Here's how to use Cefaly:

  1. Before placing the device, clean the area between the eyebrows on your forehead.

  2. Place the device on the forehead with the logo facing outwards and the lower edge sitting between your eyebrows. The electrode patch should stick firmly against your skin.

  3. Turn on the power button and adjust the intensity levels as you wish. 

Change the electrode patch when it loses its stickiness or after a few uses.

Does Cefaly work for vestibular migraines?

Vestibular migraines are when you experience vertigo, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting alongside your migraine symptoms. Treatments are similar to those for common migraine headaches, and studies have proven that external trigeminal nerve stimulation can be effective. A 2016 study⁴ recorded noticeable improvements in patients with episodic migraines after a three-month preventive treatment with eTNS.

However, more studies need to look into the long-term impacts of the Cefaly device on vestibular migraines.

Understanding the stages of a migraine attack

Because Cefaly migraine therapy is mainly for prevention, it's essential to know the progression of your migraine symptoms if you want it to be more effective. Migraines often progress through four stages: Prodrome, aura, attack, and postdrome.

The progression is not always sequential, and not everyone experiences all the stages.

  1. The prodrome stage occurs 24-48 hours before an impending attack. You might experience sudden mood changes, constipation, a stiff neck, food cravings, and frequent urination.

  2. The aura stages might happen just before or during a migraine episode. Common symptoms include photopsia (flashes of light, floaters), tingling sensations in the arms and legs, numbness, hearing sounds, and uncontrollable jerking.

  3. The attack stage happens when you experience a full-blown migraine. You’ll likely feel throbbing or pulsing pain on one or both sides of the head. You might also experience light sensitivity, nausea, vomiting, and loss of sensation. 

  4. The postdrome stage follows after the migraine subsides. You may experience fatigue or confusion for up to 24 hours. 

When should you see a doctor?

Get your migraines checked by a healthcare practitioner if they become more frequent. Seek immediate medical attention if the pain is so intense that you can't handle any other task, or:

  • You experience nausea, vomiting, dizziness, or loss of consciousness

  • You feel numbness in any part of the body

  • You experience sudden, severe headaches, followed by a stiff neck

Tips for migraine prevention

Preventing a migraine can be a lot easier than trying to cure it. One of the best preventive options is recognizing things that trigger the condition and avoiding them. Common triggers include skipping meals, dehydration, insomnia, loud music, and strobe lights.

While you can’t cure migraines in this way, you can reduce the intensity and frequency. 

Here's what you can do to keep a migraine at bay:

Journal your migraine history to learn the triggers

Diarizing your headaches will help track your symptoms and identify possible triggers. Log every instance by noting the time of occurrence and what you did to resolve it. It is also a good idea to note the following:

  • The symptoms you're experiencing

  • The environmental conditions, such as the weather

  • Your current sleep schedule

  • All the food you ate, including beverages

  • Any medications you take

Tracking your migraines usually exposes patterns. That makes it easier to understand how you experience the symptoms and what you can do to prevent them.

Take medication as soon as you start experiencing a migraine

People who often experience migraine attacks use over-the-counter medications to relieve the symptoms. Most drugs are more effective when the pain is still mild. Early detection is the best way to ease the pain and restore your brain's regular function. The two common medications for migraine attacks are triptans and gepants.


Triptans⁵ ease a migraine attack by imitating the action of serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine or 5-HT). Triptans target specific brain receptors and ensure they don’t overproduce the chemicals that usually occur during a migraine attack. Examples of triptans include rizatriptan, almotriptan, eletriptan, naratriptan, sumatriptan, frovatriptan, and zolmitriptan.


Gepants⁶ bind to the CGRP receptor on the trigeminal nerve and block the release of CGRP, which shortens the duration of the migraine attack. Unlike triptans, gepants do not constrict blood vessels. CGRP receptor antagonists include ubrogepant, atogepant, and rimegepant.

Maintain a regular sleep pattern

Lack of sleep can aggravate migraine symptoms, as can napping for too long. Health practitioners recommend clocking at least seven to eight hours of sleep every day. Maintain a regular sleep pattern by going to bed and getting up around the same time every day. 

Stay hydrated

Dehydration-related headaches often happen when the body doesn't get enough fluid, causing dizziness, fatigue, extreme thirst, and a dry mouth. Dehydration can trigger migraine headaches, so you need to drink plenty of water. 

Watch your caffeine intake

Some migraine patients often report that a strong cup of coffee relieves the pain of a migraine attack. However, too much caffeine disrupts your sleep pattern and creates dependencies that can trigger migraines. Strong coffee can affect your hydration, increasing the frequency of urination.

Pay attention to your diet

Skipping meals denies your brain the critical nutrients needed to power your day. Some people report that food like chocolate and cheese triggers their migraines. As this can vary from person to person, it's best to diarize your experience. Eat-in moderation and ensure that you have all three main meals and snacks in between. 

Avoid stress

One study suggests that stress could affect about 70%⁷ of the people suffering migraine headaches. Stress can be caused by many issues, such as a high-pressure job, planning a wedding, raising children, or even a long commute to work. You can manage stress with:

  • A healthy diet

  • Regular exercise

  • Meditation

  • Good sleeping habits

  • Avoiding stressful situations and environments

Get into a workout routine

Migraines can place an emotional and financial burden on your life. As stress triggers migraines and tension-type headaches, exercise can be a great tool. It boosts your mood by releasing endorphins and reduces stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol.

Avoid environmental triggers

Changes in your living or working situation can trigger stress and migraine headaches. It's good to assess your circumstances and identify how each could be affecting your migraine patterns. You should avoid high temperatures and increased humidity because they could induce headaches. 

The lowdown

Migraines are often life-altering, requiring extreme patience and dedication to manage. Learning your migraine triggers and prevention planning are critical to controlling them. Since medications may not provide the ultimate cure, complementary therapies may be helpful. Speak to your doctor to find the best treatment for you.

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