Botox injections may prevent migraine episodes for people with chronic migraine. The drug may cause some side effects.

In the quest to find relief from chronic migraine, you might try just about anything. After all, migraine attacks can be painful and debilitating, and they can greatly affect your quality of life.

If you experience migraine symptoms on 15 or more days each month, you have chronic migraine. Medications for migraine exist to either address acute symptoms or prevent attacks from occurring.

One such preventive therapy is Botox. Read on to learn how it can help treat chronic migraine.

Botox is an injectable drug made from a purified protein called Clostridium botulinum. When injected into your body, it blocks certain chemical signals from your nerves, causing temporary paralysis of your muscles.

Though Botox gained popularity as a wrinkle reducer, researchers recognized its potential for treating medical conditions, too.

Today, it’s used to treat problems such as repetitive neck spasms, eye twitching, and overactive bladder. It’s also used to prevent chronic migraine.

Botox is FDA-approved to help prevent migraine attacks

In 2010, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of onabotulinumtoxinA as a treatment for chronic migraine. If other treatment options haven’t worked for you, it could be time to discuss Botox with your doctor.

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Botox treatments can help reduce symptoms of migraine attacks, including:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • sensitivity to lights, sounds, and smells

Botox is injected in areas involved in headache and migraine pain. It affects the nerve endings and blocks the release of chemicals involved in pain transmission.

For most people, Botox injections are not painful, and patients don’t generally require any topical anesthetic prior to the procedure. You may experience a very small sting or slight burning sensation with each injection.

Each session will last 10–15 minutes. During the sessions, your doctor will inject multiple doses of Botox into specific points along your head and shoulders.

After the treatment, most patients are able to continue their day as usual without any issues.

Where is Botox injected to treat migraine?

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Treatment for chronic migraine prevention usually includes 31 injections with 5 units per injection. Injection sites are likely to include:

  • in the region between the eyebrows
  • forehead
  • temples
  • back of the head
  • neck
  • upper back

How often should I get Botox for migraine prevention?

If you undergo Botox treatments for migraine, your doctor will typically administer them once every 3 months. Getting Botox injections more frequently isn’t well studied, so the risks are currently unknown.

After treatment, some people may improve significantly and be able to discontinue treatment without relapse. Depending on your response to Botox, your doctor will recommend a length of time for your treatment plan.

What is the success rate of Botox for migraine?

In a study comparing Botox injections to a nerve block as a treatment for migraine, 22.7% of people who received Botox injections saw their headaches resolve permanently compared to 16.7% of people who received the nerve block.

That said, doctors consider a 30–50% reduction in the amount of migraine headache episodes you have to be a successful result of Botox treatment. Doctors may also look at the number of headache days you experience after the treatment versus before.

How long does it take to see results?

After you receive Botox injections, it may take 10–14 days or longer for you to experience relief. In some cases, you may not experience any relief from your symptoms following your first set of injections. Additional treatments may prove more effective.

How long does the effectiveness of Botox injections last for migraine?

A 2018 study showed that Botox used to treat chronic migraine was effective, safe, and well tolerated over a 3-year period. The study showed a significant reduction in mean monthly headache days.

A 2019 review of studies also showed that Botox injections are effective in helping to prevent chronic migraine after 3 months of therapy.

Does Botox for migraine cause cosmetic changes?

The number of units of Botox you receive for treating chronic migraine is less than the amount used for cosmetic procedures.

In addition, wrinkles on your forehead are not targeted during such a procedure, which means you shouldn’t expect any cosmetic results.

That said, if it’s injected wrong, you could develop drooping in your eyes or brows.

According to the American Migraine Foundation, the FDA-recommended dose of 155 units for Botox treatment can cost around $300–$600.

Since Botox is approved for treating chronic migraine, your insurance will usually cover it. This includes Medicare and Medicaid.

However, they may ask you to try two other preventive treatments unsuccessfully first, such as antiseizure medications, antidepressants, or blood pressure medications used to prevent migraine.

Complications and side effects of Botox treatments are rare. The most common side effects of Botox injections are neck pain and stiffness at the injection site.

You may develop a headache afterward. You may also experience temporary muscle weakness in your neck and upper shoulders. This can make it hard to keep your head upright. When these side effects occur, they usually resolve on their own within a few days.

In rare cases, Botox toxin can spread to areas beyond the injection site. If this happens, you may experience:

  • muscle weakness
  • vision changes
  • difficulty swallowing
  • drooping eyelids
  • sharply raised eyebrows

In addition, a complication of Botox for migraine can be drooping of the eyelids or eyebrows, which is called ptosis.

To reduce your risk of serious side effects and complications, always make sure Botox is prescribed and administered by a trained healthcare professional.

Look for a board certified physician or neurologist with experience using Botox to treat chronic migraine.

If you have chronic migraine, Botox is one of many treatment options available to you.

Your doctor may not recommend Botox injections until other treatment options have proven unsuccessful. They may also suggest trying Botox if you don’t tolerate migraine medications well.

If other preventive treatments haven’t eased your chronic migraine symptoms, it may be time to talk with your doctor about Botox. The process is quick and low risk, and it might be your ticket to more symptom-free days.

Most insurance providers now cover the expense of Botox injections when they’re used to treat chronic migraine. If you don’t have insurance, or your insurance won’t cover the cost of the procedure, it may cost you several thousand dollars.

Before you begin receiving injections, talk with your insurance company. In some cases, they may require you to undergo other procedures or tests before they will cover the costs of Botox treatments.