A Drug-Free Tool for Your Migraine Prevention Toolbox

Anyone who has experienced migraine headaches is all too familiar with the excruciating pain and unbearable burden that they cause. Treating migraines can feel like chasing a moving target, but as technology and medicine advances, so do the options for relief.

Brinder Vij, MD, associate director of the UC Health Headache and Facial Pain Center, is exploring the recently FDA-approved electrotherapeutical system Cefaly® as an option for treating patients with frequent episodic migraines.

“Neurostimulation has been used as a pain management tool at headache centers for a long time. We are now offering the Cefaly device at West Chester Hospital to provide our patients with another tool for prevention,” says Dr. Vij.

Cefaly, popular in Canada since its certification in 2010, is now available in the U.S. Its new, pocket-sized design comes with a USB cable, a wall charger, an electrode and a storage case – allowing for convenient use at home or on the go.

Cefaly works through safe, painless neurostimulation of the nerves known to transmit migraine pain: a bundle of nerves called the trigeminal nerve. Referred to as “the great sensory nerve of the head and neck,” the trigeminal nerve acts as the physiological gate to channel pain signals to the brain.

“Micro-stimulation to the area helps the nerve endings to produce endorphins, which are natural, pain-relieving radicals,” says Dr. Vij. “Cefaly vibrates, stimulating the area, and floods that physiological gate with non-painful signals – crowding out any painful signals that are trying to get through to the brain.”

Using Cefaly is easy: simply apply an adhesive electrode to the forehead, connect Cefaly to the electrode (it is magnetized) and press the power button. Micro-impulses begin to stimulate the trigeminal nerve endings and will last for 20 minutes. The level of stimulation can be ramped up several settings to allow for optimal results.

“Sometimes it takes a few sessions before people become accustomed to the vibrating sensation,” says Dr. Vij. “For the patients who say it works for them, Cefaly is like a prevention homerun.”

Perhaps the best aspect of Cefaly is that it is an effective, drug-free pain reliever. For migraine sufferers who are overwhelmed with an assortment of side-effect-producing medications, this drug-free option is like a breath of fresh air.

Cefaly requires a prescription and costs approximately $300. The current version is specialized for prevention, but future designs may include settings to stop acute migraine attacks and for stress reduction.

“Migraines affect the productivity of a huge group of people in our community, so I feel satisfied when people tell me that my assistance has given them a higher quality of life,” says Dr. Vij.

Click here to learn more about the UC Health Headache and Facial Pain Center.

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