Nicky Blackburn
August 18, 2008, Updated December 10, 2018

Many sufferers from chronic neck pain and migraines don’t know why the pain persists, but they do know that a gentle massage on the neck muscles can make life more bearable. That’s just what the new Israeli company Headway is planning to do.

The company, which is located within the Misgav Venture Accelerator Incubator, has developed a device called the Occiflex to give gentle massage therapy to the neck muscles of people with chronic neck and head pain. Using biofeedback methods, the device can be an add-on to a physical therapist’s treatment table and improve the quality of life for the 30 million Americans who suffer from migraine headaches.

Currently people combat migraines with heavy drugs and invasive procedures or opt for alternative treatments such as acupuncture. But Headway’s Occiflex mimics the pain relieving hands-on therapy given by physicians and physical therapists. The result is therapeutic.

Occiflex is equipped with a special head cradling high-tech device that is controlled by a computer. The patient lies down on the table and the Occiflex cradle moves the head gently along a predefined 3D course — a line of movement which varies from patient to patient and which has been optimized to relieve tension in the muscles.

Stopping the vicious cycle in headaches

“Migraines are treated with powerful drugs,” Steve Rhodes, CEO of the Misgav incubator, tells ISRAEL21c. The Occiflex, he explains, tackles the “vicious cycle” of muscle contraction in the neck. “This relaxes muscles and reduces pain.”

The type of movement on which the Occiflex is based is that given by practitioners, but with some very important advantages says the company: the device can restore normal muscle activation patterns by using biofeedback (real-time patient data) to optimize treatment.

Flexible and mobile, it can be used in pain clinics and can be brought to remote locations. Eventually, the company plans on developing a home model.

Relieves a spectrum of head and neck pain

Chronic headaches such as migraines, tension-type headaches, myofascial and post-traumatic headaches are some types that can be alleviated with Occiflex. It is also believed to be effective for treating whiplash and post-spinal surgery.

At first the company plans on targeting the professional market, and in the US, it will be sold through distributors, with a range of disposable products to accompany it.

Headway was founded in 2006, and the Occiflex prototype has been tested on healthy volunteers. The company is led by CEO Tamir Levital, a biotech researcher; and was founded by Dr. Yaron River, a neurologist who heads the Pain Treatment Center at the Bnei-Zion Medical Center in Haifa.

About to enter clinical trials, the Occiflex could be on the US market within 18 months if the right investor is found. Rhodes adds that the device also opens a revenue stream for pain clinics by automating what was normally a hands-on and labor-intensive treatment.

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