Back in 2011, on Skeptic North, I wrote about a treatment for migraine headaches called Cefaly. The device was recently approved by the FDA for use in the US, so I took another look at the product.
The short version of the article:
These studies show the possibility of Cefaly as a partial prophylactic for some types of migraines, but but no indication it is useful as a treatment for an ongoing attack.
So, the question remains, is Cefaly worth the price? The cost on the Cefaly Canada site is $349.00 + taxes and shipping (total=$388.49). A pack of 3 extra electrodes is $24.99 ($31.49 total). Each electrode is supposed to last for 15-30 uses, so the additional cost of the electrodes could be anywhere from $127 to $255 per year. Cefaly seems to be well tolerated by most users, at least in the short term. However, it is not an insignificant cost for something that may have no effect at all. It would be interesting to see how many people are still using it 3 or 4 years later.
The decrease in requirement for medication is intriguing on a cost basis, and also the potential for limiting the possible side-effects. There is a wide range of medications used to treat migraines, and each comes with it’s own side-effect profile; a fairly comprehensive list can be found on the Rx List site. As the study above noted, Cefaly is not considered a useful treatment for an ongoing attack, so for those who require acute treatment, medication will not be eliminated. Cefaly is also much less invasive than implanted electrodes, and it might be worth considering before undergoing surgery.
Migraine is a complex disorder with varied triggers and there is no single treatment that could ever hope to eliminate all attacks, and I do understand that for anyone who suffers from chronic pain that any hope can be worth a try and it appears that the risks of using Cefaly are mostly financial. It is possible that Cefaly might help any given individual, but each person should take these and other aspects into consideration.