Migraines can be an extremely debilitating condition and chronic migraine, which is characterized as fifteen or more headache days per month, can serious diminish one’s quality of life. As chronic migraine sufferers know, they will try just about anything to experience some relief. One treatment that has gained popularity for its results in lessening the symptoms is onabotulinumtoxinA, also known as Botox. Botox is made with the toxic bacteria Clostridium botulinum, which is the toxin that causes botulism, an extremely dangerous food borne illness. Botox is administered via injection.
Botox became a household name in the late 1990’s due to its popular use as a wrinkle reducer. However, doctors quickly discovered that instead of using it just for cosmetic procedures, it could serve a medical purpose as well. One of those medical purposes is to reduce the pain and frequency of chronic migraines. The FDA officially approved Botox for the prevention of chronic migraines in 2010.
How it works
Botox as a treatment for chronic migraines is intended to minimize the symptoms of the headache, including nausea, vomiting and increased sensitivity. However, it should be noted that many patients do not feel any relief after their first set of injections. For those that do experience some relief, it can take up to two week for it to be felt. According the Headache Society, additional treatments may be needed to feel relief. When treating chronic migraines, Botox is usually administered every 3 months over the course of 15 months. Multiple injections are given to specific points of the body. These points include the bridge of your nose, forehead, temples, neck, back of the head and upper back.
Is it for you?
There are many factors to consider when deciding if Botox is the right course of treatment for your chronic migraines. Most importantly, you should discuss it with your doctor. Your doctor may recommend try other treatments or medications before attempting Botox. If those treatments do not prove successful or you have negative reactions to medicine, Botox could be the answer.
Another factor to consider is whether your insurance will cover the costs. Today, many insurance providers cover the cost of Botox when used for treatment of chronic migraines. Be sure to check with your provider before beginning treatment though as some require additional options and testing be done beforehand. If your insurance will not cover it or you do not have insurance at all, treatments can cost thousands of dollars.
While complications from Botox are not common, the side effects may include:
- Neck pain
- Stiffness at the injection site
- Temporary muscle weakness in the neck and upper shoulders
Most side effects resolve themselves with a couple of days. However, there is the potential of a rare complication caused by the toxin when it spreads outside the injection site.
There are been no cases of this when the drug is correctly prescribed and then administered by a trained provider. If it were to happen, the patient can experience vision changes, muscle weakness, minimal strength and droopy eyelids. If you think Botox may be a good solution for your chronic migraines, discuss it with your doctors. It has been proven effective but is not the best answer for everyone.