If you are one of the 37 million people who suffer from migraines, you’ve probably heard about Botox as treatment option. In 2010 the FDA approved the use of this drug in treating chronic migraine headaches. Since then, many people have questions about Botox’s ability to reduce the frequency and severity of migraines. Since everyone’s body and circumstances is unique, there’s no one answer, and you should discuss this with your health care provider.
However, here’s some information to help you consider whether it might be an option for you.
It was first used therapeutically (in small doses) to treat eye problems and later for cosmetic treatments. Finding that Botox helped migraine sufferers came as a surprise when people receiving cosmetic injections noticed an improvement in their migraines. Scientists still don’t know exactly why. But it’s thought that Botox relaxes a person’s muscles enough to limit the tiny muscle spasms that cause migraines and block the spread of pain.
The same Botox dose (155 units) used to reduce frown-lines is injected into seven locations around the neck, back of the head, temples and the forehead through 31 tiny injections. Treatment may sting or feel like burning, but many say the pain is less than migraines. Each treatment takes five to ten minutes and lasts about three months.
Botox is not a first-line treatment for chronic migraines. It doesn’t work for everyone. And like any injected medication, it can have side-effects, especially neck pain. Figuring out if it’s an option for you:
Botox might be worth considering if: You’ve tried everything for over a year and you still have 15 or more migraines a month with pain lasting more than eight hours. You already:
Hold off on Botox if: Lifestyle changes go a long way to lessening the incidence and pain of migraines. If you haven’t yet done all you can do with lifestyle changes, try these first:
Botox is not an option if: Some people have other conditions or circumstances that make Botox use a bad idea. If you have an infection at the injection site or if you are using Botox to treat bladder function problems, you’ll have to wait. Don’t use Botox if you are:
Migraines can be debilitating. Every safe treatment tool is worth investigating, and you’ll want to work with your doctor along the way.
Botox requires a commitment of up to a year of treatments every three months before you know if it works. Health insurers usually require trying at least two anti-migraine medications unsuccessfully before paying for Botox, so check your coverage. If cost is an issue, the manufacturer of Botox, Allergan, has some assistance programs.