Botox injections have been used by plastic surgeons for smoothing and reducing facial wrinkles but new studies suggest that Botox can be used to treat migraine headaches. In 2010 the FDA approved the use of Botox for treating chronic migraines
Migraines and Botox
Botox is most commonly used by cosmetic surgeons to reduce and diminish fine lines and wrinkles. Many plastic surgeons noted that their patients experienced relief from headaches after receiving Botox. Leading to clinical trials specifically focused on treating headaches with Botox. The FDA conducted two studies involving 1,384 adults in North America and Europe. The published results of the study stated that patients treated with Botox experienced a major decreases in the frequency of headache days, leading the FDA to approve the use of Botox for treatment of chronic migraines.
Botox is injected in multiple sites around the head and neck. The injection areas are determined by the distribution of pain in each patient. A certified medical specialist will make up to 31 injections distributed evenly on each side of the body to treat chronic migraines. (The image below shows the inection sites for migraine treatment; courtesy of Allergan)
Botox doesn’t just mask the pain associated with migraines, it stops all activity in the brain related to the migraine, preventing all migraine headache symptoms including the aura. Each session lasts about 30 min with no downtime and minimal discomfort. It takes about one week to experience the affects of the Botox.
How long does Botox last for migraine prevention? The effects can last up to 3 months, however studies show that the effects last longer with each injection session. It is recommended that chronic migraine patients get Botox injections every 12 weeks to maximize the effect.
Botox for migraine prevention is relatively safe, with few side effects. Complications associated with Botox injections for the treatment of migraines include: headache, neck pain, muscle weakness, eyelid ptosis and pain or bruising at the injection site. If a patient is allergic to Botox they will experience anaphylactic symptoms like difficulty swallowing or breathing. Research shows that Botox is safe for most people but those with certain neurological disorders and diseases such as Lou Gehrig’s shouldn’t get Botox injections. It is always best to discuss your complete medical history with your doctor before proceeding with any treatment options.
The average cost of Botox in 2011 was $328, according to a survey conducted by the ASAPS. However, this number varies based on the amount of Botox needed and the number of injection sites. In some cases insurance companies will cover the cost of Botox for the treatment of migraines.
What is a Migraine?
Migraines affect an estimated 28 million Americans; 10 million suffer from daily headaches. The FDA defines a chronic migraine patient as one who has a history of migraines and has headaches more than 14 days a month. Migraine headaches are described as intense throbbing or pulsing pain in a localized area of the head, accompanied by a sensitivity to light, nausea and vomiting.
Migraine is a neurological disorder that ranks in the top 20 of the most disabling medical conditions. Migraines affect people of all ages. Woman are more likely than men to suffer from migraines; three times as many woman have migraines than men. Estrogen plays a role in increasing a woman's chance of having migraines.
There are many types of migraines and the severity and symptoms are rarely exactly the same for each person or each headache. The International Headache Society acknowledges 14 different types of migraines with distinct diagnostic criteria. The two most common types of migraines are: migraine with aura and migraine without aura.
Migraine with aura, also called the “classic migraine”, is classified by a series of changes that occur before the headache starts. The series of changes, called aura, include visual, sensory and cognitive changes that occur 10-30 min before the onset of the headache. Migraine with aura account for 15 percent of all migraine headaches.
Migraine without aura are the most common form of migraines, making up 80 percent of all migraines. Migraine without aura, also known as the “common migraine” last between 4-72 hours and are often accompanied by nausea or vomiting. The pain usually resides on one side of the head and is described as throbbing or pulsating.
Neurologists and pain specialists are quickly accepting the use of Botox for treating migraine pain and frequency of migraine attacks because it is remarkable safety and highly effective. Over time, it may not only reduce the amount of pain and frequency of headaches, for some, it may eliminate them altogether.