Migraine sufferers: Hold on to your hats. A new treatment tool may change the way you deal with your pain.
It's called the Cefaly headband. And it works by pressing an electrode against a migraine sufferer's forehead that sends an electrical pulse to the trigeminal nerve under the skin. This nerve has been shown to play a role in the development of migraines. By stimulating this nerve, the device may help to prevent painful migraines.
In a small study of 67 participants, half of the group wore Cefaly headbands for 20 minutes each day, while the other half were placebo-bands for the same time period. Researchers found that the participants who were using the Cefaly band were less likely to take migraine medication than their peers using the phony bands.
Cefaly headbands have been cleared by the Food and Drug Administration for marketing in the U.S. They are available online for around $350 plus $25 for the cost of three electrodes which will last for about 60 treatments. But hopeful users will need to email a prescription from their doctors before they can obtain the device.
While it may look more like something you would see at some futuristic nightclub, the technology behind the Cefaly headband has actually been around for a while. Pain management specialists and anesthesiologists have used the underlying technology behind Cefaly — called transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, or TENS — to relieve pain for decades. I used a TENS unit to ease the pain of labor contractions during the birth of my second daughter. In a TENS unit, electrodes placed on the skin transmit low-voltage electrical pulses into the skin and nerves underneath.
One might think that low-doses of electrical stimulation would feel bad or at least uncomfortable. But when you are already in pain, it actually feels kind of soothing — like rubbing a sore muscle to make it feel better.
The interesting thing about the science behind TENS units and the Cefaly headbands is that no one really knows how it works. They just know that it does. And for migraine sufferers, that may come as welcome news indeed.
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