For those who suffer from migraines, the pain can be debilitating. The throbbing, “pulsating” pain often occurs on one side of the head and can last for hours or days at a time. If you experience this chronic pain, you may be exploring new treatment options to help manage your health. One of the newer treatments on the market is Botox® for migraine management. Let’s take a look at how Botox® works and how it can help you manage your migraine pain.
Botox® is a form of botulinum toxin type A that is injected into specific muscles in order to block certain chemicals that are responsible for muscle contractions and sensory nerve activity. These injections are typically used to treat lines and wrinkles on the face, but they have recently gained popularity as a treatment for migraines.
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Botox for migraine treatment
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 preventative therapy is Botox, 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 the potential of Botox 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)Trusted Source 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.
How is Botox used to treat migraine?
Botox treatments can help reduce symptoms of migraine attacks, including:
- 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.
After you receive Botox injections, it may take 10 to 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.
A 2018 studyTrusted Source showed that Botox used to treat chronic migraine was effective, safe, and well tolerated over ta 3-year period. The study showed a significant reduction in mean monthly headache days.
A 2019 review of studiesTrusted Source also showed that Botox injections are effective in helping to prevent chronic migraine after 3 months of therapy.
Botox injection sites for migraine
Treatment for chronic migraine prevention usually includes 31 injections with 5 units per injection. Injection sites are likely to include:
- upper bridge above the nose
- back of the head
- upper back
Side effects of Botox for migraine pain
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
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 a neurologist with experience using Botox for chronic migraine.
What to expect from getting Botox
Botox injections themselves are almost painless. You may experience a very small sting or slight burning sensation with each injection.
Each session will last between 10 and 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.
How often to 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 are able to discontinue treatment without relapse. Depending on your response to Botox, your doctor will recommend a length of time for your treatment plan.
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 to 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 to 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.