In the quest to find relief from chronic migraine headaches, patients will try just about anything. After all, migraines are painful, debilitating headaches. People with chronic migraines experience these severe headaches 15 or more days each month. Quality of life is greatly affected by this disorder. Treatment is the only chance for relief.
Chronic migraine treatment can help ease symptoms, but not all patients respond well to pain medicines. In some cases, doctors prescribe preventive medicines. These are designed to reduce the frequency and severity of headaches. According to a study in the journal Neurology, about one-third of patients with chronic migraines take preventive medicines.
Earlier this decade, onabotulinumtoxinA (more commonly known as Botox-A or Botox) gained U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval as a migraine treatment. It is now widely used as a chronic migraine treatment.
But I Thought It Was for Wrinkles
Botox gained popularity and notoriety as a wrinkle reducer in the late 1990s and early 2000s. It wasn’t long before researchers recognized the potential for Botox to treat other conditions. In 2010, the FDA approved Botox as a preventive treatment option for chronic migraines.
Botox is an injectable drug made from a toxic bacterium called Clostridium botulinum. The same toxin causes a life-threatening food poisoning called botulism.
How Botox Treats Migraines
Botox treatments for migraines are typically given once every three months. Treatments span a 15-month period. To perform the treatment, your doctor will inject multiple doses of the medicine in specific points along the bridge of the nose, the temples, the forehead, the back of the head, the neck, and the upper back.
The goal of these injections is to reduce the symptoms caused by a migraine headache. These symptoms include nausea; vomiting; and sensitivity to lights, sounds, and smells.
Relief doesn’t happen right away. Improvement can take as long as 10 to 14 days. Some people may not experience any relief with their first set of injections. Additional treatments are sometimes more successful, according to the American Headache Society.
Is Botox Right for You?
Botox is one of many treatment options available to individuals with chronic migraines. Doctors may not recommend Botox injections until other treatment options have proved unsuccessful. However, Botox may be a better option if you do not tolerate migraine medication well.
Most insurance providers now cover the expense of a Botox injection if it is being used to treat chronic migraine. If you do not have insurance, or if your insurance does not pay for the procedure, a treatment can cost several thousand dollars. Before you begin the injections, talk with your insurance company about your responsibility. In some cases, they may require you to undergo several other procedures or tests before they will authorize the Botox treatments.
Complications of Botox Treatments
Fortunately, complications and side effects of Botox treatments are not very common. The most common side effects of Botox injections are neck pain and stiffness at the injection site and headache. Some patients may experience temporary muscle weakness in the neck and upper shoulders. This can make keeping your head upright difficult. Fortunately, these side effects usually resolve in a few days.
A rare side effect is possible, too. The Botox toxin can spread to areas beyond the injection site. When this happens, a person may experience muscle weakness, vision changes, drooping eyelids, and loss of strength. Fortunately, no such cases have been reported when the medicine was used as prescribed and administered by a trained health-care professional.
Talk with Your Doctor about Botox
Botox isn’t right for everyone, but it might be right for you. If other preventive treatments have not eased chronic migraine symptoms, it may be time to talk with your doctor about Botox.
The injections themselves are almost painless. You may experience a very small sting at each injection. The process is, quick, too. Each session lasts between 10 and 15 minutes. If previous treatment options have not provided you with any relief, bring up Botox injections the next time you see your doctor. It might be the ticket to more headache-free days.