According to the Migraine Research Foundation, nearly one in four American households have at least one member who suffers from migraine headaches. About 4% of these sufferers have chronic migraines that can occur as many as 15 days per month, lasting four to six hours each. Migraines can be severely debilitating. Symptoms can include pulsing or throbbing pain, sensitivity to light and sound, blurred vision, and nausea or vomiting.
Most people think of Botox as a treatment for wrinkles, stiff muscles and similar complaints. While Botox helps alleviate these, recent research tells us it can benefit chronic migraine patients, too. In fact, Botox is an FDA-approved medication for migraines. It is injected in small amounts at specified muscle targets around the head and neck to help reduce migraines.
The injection pattern includes 31 injections over seven areas of the head and neck, given once every 12 weeks. Physicians use small, fine needles to prevent discomfort. The injections may feel like tiny pinpricks. Chronic migraine patients have reported a reduction in the severity and frequency of headaches by more than 50%.
How it works
Botox differs from other chronic migraine treatments. Botox is a prophylactic medication; this means the medication can help prevent a problem from starting. Typical migraine medications focus on aborting the headache once it starts. Chronic migraine patients usually manage with a combination of medication to both prevent and stop migraines.
Many patients are concerned about getting injections with needles. The typical needle size is quite small and comparable to insulin needles. Other patients are anxious about having a “toxin” put in their body. While this isn’t an unreasonable concern, the amount of toxin injected is very small and rarely causes unwanted side effects.
To prevent or lessen any side effects, tell your doctor about any medication you currently take. Don’t start new medications until you know how your body reacts to Botox. Although not very frequent, common side effects of Botox include pain at the injection sites, head and neck pain and vision problems; tell your doctor right away if this occurs. Additionally, tell your doctor if you’ve received Botox for any other condition, the number of injections you received, and exactly what type of Botox you received.
Take steps to minimize chronic migraines
Our providers remind migraine suffers to be aggressive with treatment and not wait until the migraine has peaked before initiating treatment. Try to identify any triggers to your migraine and eliminate as much as possible.
Remember, Botox is a preventative treatment that needs time to work. Stay in touch with your provider to chart progress and be specific about your symptom experiences. If you are not progressing as you would like or if your headache days don’t diminish after one or two treatments, you and your provider may need to discuss alternative treatments.