Botox is commonly associated with cosmetic beauty treatments. It reduces the appearance of wrinkles and gives a more youthful appearance to the skin. It is also an often recommended and successful medical treatment for some conditions, however, including chronic migraine. As far back as 2010, the FDA approved Botox injections as a preventive treatment for migraine.
How Botox Helps Migraine Sufferers
Exactly why Botox works for some migraine sufferers isn’t known. The drug is a Botulinum toxin called OnabotulinumtoxinA, sometimes referred to as simply Botox-A. Produced by bacteria, it is a neurotoxic protein that’s destructive to nerve tissue. When injected, it blocks nerve and muscle activity. This effect can last for up to three or four months.
It can often take several courses of treatment before you’ll know if Botox has helped your migraine or not. Far from being a quick fix, it can take around nine months, and two or three Botox courses, before you notice any improvement.
For some people, the results are quicker and can even happen after the first round of injections. Normally, if you’re not seeing an improvement following the third round, it is assumed the treatment doesn’t work in your case and you won’t be offered further Botox treatments.
For those who do see an improvement, this can often be significant. Patients report far fewer episodes per months, faster recovery following an attack, and reduced severity. Few people, however, find that Botox is a complete cure for migraine.
Is Botox Suitable for all Types of Migraine?
No. Trials and studies into how effective Botox treatment is for migraine revealed that the treatment doesn’t work for all types of migraine.
It is most effective for those with chronic migraine, but not necessarily more effective than more conventional treatments such as medications like amitriptyline or prednisone.
A recent report indicates that Botox is no help to those with episodic migraine, which means fewer than 15 episodes per month, or those who suffer from tension headaches.
Botox can help chronic migraine sufferers by reducing the number of episodes per months, but it is considered a preventive treatment rather than a cure of any sort.
Botox for Other Conditions
Botox is approved by the FDA for quite a few other medical conditions, as well as chronic migraine. These include:
- Controlling muscle spasms or twitches around the eyes.
- Correcting cross eyes.
- Helping with sever spasms in neck muscles, called cervical dystonia.
- Reducing bladder activity.
- Helping people with bruxism, which is teeth grinding.
This list is not exhaustive, There are many other ailments and conditions that Botox injections can help.
What Happens During Treatment?
It’s important to get Botox treatment from a physician who is experienced in migraine treatments. Just because a clinic has experience in administering Botox for cosmetic or other purposes, doesn’t mean they’re knowledgeable about the correct injection sites for migraine treatment.
Botox treatment for migraine involves multiple injections, with each one feeling like a small prick. Some people say they feel like minor bee stings, with those into the forehead being the most uncomfortable. There are over 30 potential injection sites around the head, including the bridge of the nose, the forehead, the temples, the neck and back of the head. Each treatment session lasts for around 15 minutes.
Are there Side Effects Following Botox for Migraine?
You might experience some side effects immediately following a Botox treatment for migraine. You could even find the injections trigger a migraine, so take your abortive medication to the clinic when you go for your appointment.
It's possible that you could also experience other types of pain, such as neck pain or weakness in your upper shoulders, as well as getting some cold or flu-like symptoms. Some people report vision changes or difficulty swallowing after receiving Botox treatment.
A health care professional with experience in administering Botox for migraine can reduce the risks of experiencing the more upsetting side effects. And it’s worth considering that, for many people, Botox has fewer side effects than a lot of commonly used drug therapies.
Is Botox Available on Insurance?
Many insurance providers will cover Botox injections for chronic migraine, but everyone should check with their individual insurance companies. If insurance cover isn’t available, the cost can run into several thousands of dollars.
Not all patients are suitable candidates for Botox treatment, so insurance companies might require evidence that other treatments have failed before they will consider covering Botox.
Each case is individual, so your first step should be to consult with your physician to find out if it’s worth exploring the feasibility of Botox as a migraine treatment.