“Botox for migraines?” – I raised my eyebrows while reading an email from a customer who was telling me what she got prescribed for migraines. That was five, maybe six years ago, when I was just starting out in anti-aging field.
Indeed, with the help of botulinum toxin injections, today’s medicine deals not only with wrinkles and hyperhidrosis. One of the main neurotoxin’s indications is treatment of migraines also known as chronic headaches. And yes, surprising as it is, Botox is considered to be the most effective migraine medication.
We all have experienced headaches. There are headaches which come and go away with a sip of a warm drink or good night rest, but there are also serious headaches that in medicine are called Migraine.
So, what exactly is Migraine?
It’s a neurological disorder characterized by occasional or regular severe headaches occurring in one (rarely in both) side of the head. This disorder is not associated with leaps of blood pressure, intracranial pressure or glaucoma.
Migraine is defined as headaches that occur fifteen or more times per month, appear unexpectedly and of such intensity that sufferers are not able to function normally. They experience severe throbbing pain, making them feel like the head is splitting in two. Such attack can last from several hours to three days and is often repeated twice, three times per week. Painkillers usually don’t help.
If such headaches persist for three months, they are recognized as chronic and receive migraine status. This is when appropriate treatment should be prescribed and most often it involves botulinum toxin injections.
“Botox? Traditional anti-wrinkle remedy?” — now I hear your surprise. Yes! Botox injections help not only to keep skin smooth, but also to relieve migraines.
As we already know, botulinum toxin is a substance secreted by a certain type of bacteria. Once injected, it has a powerful muscle relaxing effect. In my previous article “Is Botox Poison?” I mentioned that doctors began using it a long time ago as a medicine helping with some neurological disorders. Later, when Botox was adapted for wrinkle treatment, American plastic surgeons made another unique discovery: patients who had neurotoxin injections were getting headaches less often.
So, in 2010 the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved use of neurotoxin for treating patients suffering from severe headaches fifteen or more days per month. And now migraine sufferers receive Botox injections to the head or neck once every twelve weeks.
The FDA issued its recommendations based on two clinical trials conducted by American drug manufacturer Allergan. The 1,300 patients participating in trial were divided into two groups: one group received Botox injections while the other one – placebo.
It turned out that in patients who went through six months’ course of botulinum toxin injections, occurrence of headaches was reduced by eight days per month compared to patients who received placebo.
However, experts emphasize this method is effective only for those who suffer from a severe form of migraines.
Now, let’s analyze what products based on botulinum toxin are available for migraine relief and which one you should choose.
In the United States, three neurotoxin brands have been approved for use in medicine:
Although they are all widely used in neurology as well as cosmetology, when it comes to treatment of migraines, it’s recommended to use Allergan Botox.
BOTOX FOR MIGRAINES AND ITS MECHANISM OF ACTION
Before going further, I would like to clarify that Botox injections are prescribed only in case of chronic migraines. That is why before considering this treatment, you need to be 100% sure it’s not a headache you are having, but migraine. Therefore, I urge you not to self-diagnose, but get a proper diagnosis from your doctor.
Using Botox for migraines especially recommended to those who wish to stop taking habit-forming painkillers and other anti migraine drugs that cause serious side effects when used excessively.
“So, how does botulinum toxin relieve migraine?” – you might ask. As with most genius ideas, mechanism of action is very simple: headaches and migraines are often caused by muscle tension and muscle contractions (spasms) in the head and neck. Botulinum toxin relaxes muscles by blocking nerve impulses that run from brain to muscles. As a result, muscles stop contracting and headache is relieved.
Use of Botox for migraines is quite effective: just one procedure can significantly alleviate the pain, thus reducing the number of painkillers taken. When administered correctly, botulinum toxin does not cause any side effects.
The procedure itself is not as bad as many people think and has many advantages:
- Administration of Botox is done during a visit to the doctor;
- Procedure takes about 20 minutes;
- Botox is administered with a thin insulin needle using multiple micro injections which makes the whole process virtually painless;
- No damage to the skin is caused.
Treatment of migraines with Botox is a single-step treatment, however, dose of botulinum toxin, injection sites and frequency of treatment are prescribed to each patient individually.
BOTOX INJECTION SITES
It’s a fact that procedure gives best results when Botox is injected into the areas where patients feel maximum discomfort. However, the usual Botox injection sites are situated in such head areas as:
Please note: in areas of aesthetic importance such as, for example, forehead and temples, an extra care must be taken to inject Botox symmetrically, using equal number of units, just to make sure relaxed muscles look the same on both sides.
The procedure is not painful, there is only a slight tingling sensation, so slight that anesthesia is not required. However, to achieve an adequate result and minimize risk of Botox side effects, it should be administered only by trained medical professionals with a proper knowledge of anatomy and experience.
As for results and treatment frequency, therapeutic effect of Botox for migraines lasts for several months, although it varies from patient to patient, while treatment should be repeated every 3-4 months.
CONTRAINDICATIONS AND BOTOX SIDE EFFECTS
Using Botox for migraines is not recommended to underage patients and those who are pregnant, lactating or suffer from Hemophilia, infections and skin diseases.
Furthermore, since Botox can cause allergic reactions, it’s not recommended to allergy sufferers.
When fighting with one or another medical disorder, it’s important to keep your options open and pay attention to modern medical treatments. Ultimately, the needs justify the deeds, especially when struggling to overcome such a painful condition as migraine. And although some specialists say that excitement over the use of Botox for migraines is unjustified due to low effectiveness, I still believe that if there is at least a small percentage of people to whom this method helped and made life easier, it’s definitely worth considering it.