Around one in seven people across the world experience a migraine at some point in their life, according to The Migraine Trust. Approximately two percent of the global population deals with chronic migraines. If you’re a part of that two percent and you deal with migraine headaches often, you’re likely wondering what you can do to reduce their occurrence and prevent them.
In 2010, Botox was approved for the treatment of chronic migraines in adults. While you’ve likely heard of it being used as a cosmetic treatment for forehead lines and other facial lines and wrinkles, it’s also been proven effective for some individuals suffering from migraines. Here’s a look at what you need to know if you’re considering this treatment.
What is Botox and How Does It Work?
Botox is a type of neurotoxin, which is a poison that’s made by Clostridium botulinum bacteria. If you ate it in spoiled food, it could cause a severe and deadly reaction known as botulism because it blocks the signals from nerves paralyzing muscles. However, it’s safe for injections because the toxin isn’t digested, and you get a much smaller amount than what you’d encounter in spoiled food.
Injections of Botox smooth wrinkles with its ability to relax the facial muscles. Botox is also found to help people with spasms and tics due to nerve diseases.
For people who suffer from migraines, Botox is injected around the pain fibers involved in these headaches. It enters your nerve endings in the area injected, blocking the release of chemicals responsible for transmitting pain. This prohibits the pain networks in your brain from being activated. While it helps to prevent migraines, it does take time to start working.
Botox Treatment for Migraines
If Botox is used to treat your migraines, you’ll receive multiple shots of Botox around the neck and head once every 12 weeks. While some people experience results as early as two to three weeks after the initial treatment, others don’t begin seeing a difference until after the second or third round of treatments. If you often experience migraine pain in a specific area, then you may require more shots in that spot.
Potential Benefits of Botox Treatment for Migraines
For many migraine sufferers, Botox treatments help to reduce the symptoms of a migraine. This includes symptoms like sensitivity to smell, sound, and light, nausea, and vomiting. It works as a preventive treatment and may reduce both the frequency and severity of migraines in chronic migraine sufferers.
Potential Side Effects from Botox for Migraines
Most people find that Botox injections are nearly painless, although you may feel a small sting. Side effects from Botox treatment are fairly rare, although some individuals who are treated with Botox for chronic migraine experience headache, neck pain, or eyebrow droop. It is possible to have an allergic reaction to Botox injections, although it’s rare. Signs of an allergic reaction include shortness of breath, swelling of the lower extremities, or hives.
Who Should Consider Botox for Migraines?
The FDA has approved Botox as a treatment for chronic migraines in adults. This means you’re a good candidate for this treatment if you experience headaches on most days of the month (at least 15 days), eight of which are due to migraines and you have a history of dealing with migraine headaches. Botox is not currently approved for other kinds of headaches, such as cluster headaches, or for individuals who only get headaches for 14 or fewer days every month.
According to the journal Neurology, research shows that only about one-third of individuals who experience chronic migraines take preventive medications. Effective preventive treatments can reduce migraine frequency and severity for many individuals, improving quality of life. If you deal with chronic migraines, talk to your healthcare provider about Botox to determine if it is a good treatment option for you.
At The Will Erwin Headache Research Foundation, we’re working towards finding a cure for migraines and cluster headaches. Donate today to help us find the cure to these debilitating headaches that affect so many people we love.