Botox is becoming increasingly popular as a treatment for chronic migraine, and the good news is that as it becomes more accepted as a treatment, it’s being covered by more insurance policies.
With migraine headaches affecting millions of Americans and costing employers around $13 billion every year, according to the Migraine Research Foundation, it’s one of the nation’s biggest health care concerns. While many patients respond well to management strategies and pain medications, others find these don’t help them at all. For those sufferers of chronic migraine, Botox offers an alternative form of treatment, which has the potential to significantly reduce the severity and frequency of attacks.
Does Botox Really Treat Migraine?
Long accepted as a beauty treatment, the notion of using Botox for migraine pain relief causes a few raised eyebrows among those who are not in the know. Surely a treatment intended to reduce wrinkles and give recipients a more youthful outlook can’t also be used to solve such a complex and debilitating condition as migraine? Surprisingly, that's exactly what it can do.
Looking back over the history of Botox treatment, it was in the late 1990s and early 2000s that the product really took off as a treatment for wrinkles. Recipients reported a reduction in migraine pain as an unexpected side effect, and researchers soon saw the potential. It took some time to be accepted, but by 2010 the FDA had approved Botox as a treatment to prevent chronic migraine.
How Botox Is Administered
It’s one of those instances where a potentially dangerous toxin is used to do good. The drug itself contains Clostridium Botulinum, a toxic bacterium that causes botulism, a form of food poisoning. But don’t worry; Botox treatments won’t give you food poisoning.
Migraine is often caused by pressure on certain nerves (the trigeminal nerve is a particular focus), so the aim of the Botox treatment is to relieve the pressure experienced by patients at the point of those sensitive nerves. This prevents the release of the chemicals that cause the surrounding muscles to contract, resulting in the pain we recognize as migraine headache.
Just as it is administered in beauty treatments, Botox is injected under the skin, with treatments typically repeated every few months over a period of 15 months. The sites where the injections are performed vary, depending on individual migraine patterns and triggers. Recipients may undergo ultrasound scans to determine the most appropriate injection locations, which may include:
- The forehead
- The bridge of the nose
- The temples
- The upper back
- The neck
- The back of the head
It can take up to 32 injections for an effective treatment. It sounds like a lot, but the injections contain very small quantities and take just a few minutes to administer. The effects may not be instant, but recipients usually see in improvement in their migraine within a couple of weeks.
Are the Any Side Effects?
In practice, very few patients (less than 1%) experience unpleasant side effects as a result of having Botox treatments. The most common signs include some lumpiness in the skin and a small amount of bruising. Very rarely, other side effects include rashes, itching, welts, some difficulties breathing, drooping eyelids and a dry mouth. Going to an experienced, properly trained health care provider helps minimize these risks. As always following medication or treatment, if you experience any discomfort you should report to your doctor for medical advice without delay.
How To Qualify for Botox Treatment
Not all migraine sufferers automatically qualify for Botox treatment. If you respond well to other migraine treatments or medications, you’re unlikely to be referred for Botox treatments.
If you suffer from chronic migraines, it’s worth bringing up the subject with your doctor and discussing whether Botox would help your personal condition. The definition of ‘chronic migraine’ is headaches occurring 15 or more days per month and lasting at least 4 hours each time.
Affording Botox Treatment for Migraine
Many health insurance providers now cover Botox Treatments for chronic migraine. In the first instance, talk to your insurance provider to find out what cover they offer. Without insurance, the cost can run into thousands of dollars. Working in conjunction with your doctor, the insurance company may require several tests before treatment is authorized.
Getting a Botox Savings Card can help mitigate out of pocket expenses for up to 82% of people who’re eligible for the card. Combined with insurance cover, it makes Botox treatments affordable for many more than would otherwise manage the cost. To avoid unpleasant financial surprises, anyone considering Botox treatment should investigate the likely costs before treatment starts.
As an alternative form of treatment, it’s far less invasive than other surgical migraine procedures and greatly improves the quality of life for many patients.