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Botox for Migraines

June 30, 2015

36 million people suffer from migraines, extremely painful headaches that make it difficult to function. Symptoms and types of migraines vary, but we’ve typically used pain and preventative medications to treat migraines. However, many people who suffer from migraines now have found relief from an unlikely source—Botox.

In 2010, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Botox as treatment for chronic migraines. Despite its reputation as an injectable cosmetic drug, in the last five years Botox has become a more common treatment for dealing with these debilitating headaches. Recently, I have referred several of my patients to specializing physicians to receive this treatment. Here is what they always want to know beforehand.

How it Works

People who suffer from chronic migraines often experience them for at least 15 days every month. Botox treatment has been proven to reduce that number significantly, limiting the number of migraine occurrences to about 9 days each month and alleviating symptoms such as nausea, sensitivity to light, sound and certain smells.

The same thing that makes Botox effective for improving fine lines and wrinkles works for chronic migraine sufferers. Botox slows down the nerve responses that lead to migraine symptoms, manipulating how nerves communicate with muscles and with nerves in other parts of the body. In addition to migraines, doctors have used it to treat muscle spasms and abnormal eye movements.

Overview of Treatment

Only individuals with chronic migraines qualify for Botox treatment. In many cases, you cannot receive Botox treatment for migraines unless other treatment options, such as pain and preventative medications, haven’t worked to control symptoms.

People who qualify receive treatment every three months over a 15-month period. During each 15-minute treatment session, several doses are injected into different parts of the face—the temples, forehead, upper back, neck, back of the head and bridge of the nose. In one to two weeks, most people notice that their migraine symptoms have begun to subside and that they have fewer headaches. However, some people will experience relief only after subsequent treatment sessions, according to the American Headache Society.

As with any treatment, Botox has certain risks. Though complications and serious side effects usually do not happen after treatment, some people may experience temporary neck pain at the site of the injection or even a non-migraine headache. In rare cases, Botox can move beyond the injection site and cause muscle weakness in these areas that lead to difficulty speaking, breathing or swallowing. However, these complications are extremely rare.

If you suffer from chronic migraines and medications haven’t worked to relieve your symptoms, Botox treatment could help. If you are curious about Botox treatment for migraines, talk to your doctor about whether this option is right for you.

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