A migraine is more than just a headache, it is indicated by severe and throbbing pain accompanied by pulsating sensation usually on one side of the head only. During migraine attacks, a patient experiences sensitivity to light and sounds. Nausea and vomiting are also quite common during a migraine attack. These symptoms cause a great disability for these patients which is essential that an effective migraine treatment should be found. Numbers show that more than 37 million Americans suffer from a migraine.
Approximately 5 million adults experience at least one migraine episode a month. A migraine is responsible for moderate to severe disability in over 11 million Americans[i]. Management of migraines revolves around medications, but many other approaches can help. For example, aromatherapy, especially with lavender essential oil is believed to be among the most effective natural remedies for migraines, which by the way – has been scientifically proven in the past. Botox is also considered effective for migraine patients. Scroll down to see whether there’s any truth to those claims.
What is Botox?
Botox is the brand name used to refer to the Botulinum toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. Botox became popular due to its beneficial effects due to which it served and still serves as one of the best anti-wrinkle treatments. By blocking the signals from the nerves to the muscles, Botox prevents the muscles from contracting, causing the wrinkles to become less visible. One thing to take in consideration is the fact that Botox is unable to correct any of the wrinkles and fine lines that have developed due to sun damage, which is quite common. Getting Botox injected takes only a few minutes and it comes with very little pain, usually, no anesthesia is required. Botox is an FDA approved an anti-wrinkle treatment that is used worldwide.
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Can Botox help with migraine?
When the word Botox comes to mind we immediately think of injections that are supposed to minimize the appearance of wrinkles and make us younger. While Botox is, indeed, a common treatment for anti-aging purposes it has other uses too and one of them is migraine management. But can Botox really help with your migraines? Let’s take a look into some of the most popular studies on this topic.
Scientists from the Thomas Jefferson University School of Medicine carried out an interesting study to assess safety and efficacy of botulinum toxin type A (Botox) in the prevention of migraine. For this purpose, they enrolled 123 subjects with a history of two to eight moderate to severe migraine attacks a month. Their findings revealed that injection of Botox was a safe and effective treatment for migraine. In fact, Botox reduced frequency and severity of migraine, vomiting, and acute medication usage[ii]. A growing body of evidence confirms that Botox treatment is effective for prevention of headache in adults with chronic migraines. Repeated treatments are safe and well-tolerated[iii].
Another study [iv]published in the Clinical Neurology and Neurosurgery has compared the effects of Botox with the effects of one of the most commonly used drugs to treat migraines – amitriptyline. The study showed that the use of Botox resulted in 50% reduction of pain episodes, reduction of the intensity of pain and an improvement in the overall health of the patient. Not only that – the researchers who worked on this study were also able to confirm that the use of Botox is just as effective as amitriptyline when used in the treatment of migraines.
How does it work?
In the past few years, Botox has been proven effective for yet another medical issue – migraines. Botox proves to be an effective approach toward management of migraines and it is not fully understood how it works, despite many studies confirming the efficacy of this treatment. It’s important to mention that back in 2010 the use of Botox for migraine has been approved by the FDA. One mechanism of action that Botox takes to alleviate and prevent migraines is by blocking neurotransmitters, chemicals that carry pain signals from your brain. Let’s look into this mechanism more deeply so that you can fully understand the way that Botox is used to treat and prevent future migraines.
You see, for muscle contraction nerves need to release acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter. This particular chemical messenger sends signals from one neuron to another. In addition, acetylcholine binds to cells in the muscle which makes them contract. Injection of Botox blocks the release of this neurotransmitter thereby preventing contraction of the muscle. Botox reduces abnormal contractions of muscles that are sensitive to pain, they become less stiff, and it prevents migraine attacks or decreases their severity[v]. This is the way that Botox is believed to work in order to treat and reduce migraines. It is a way that has been proven effective and it is taken advantage of by a number of patients all around the world.
Things to know before getting Botox for migraine
- It may not work if you get headaches 14 or fewer days a month
- Botox probably won’t work for other types of headaches e.g. cluster[vi] and tension headaches
- Administering Botox for migraine requires a specific protocol that involves 31 injection sites over your head, shoulders, and neck
- No anesthesia is needed
- Neck pain is the most common side effects. Other possible side effects include pain at the injection site, temporary swelling, redness, and muscle weakness (in extreme cases)
- Allergic reactions to Botox are rare, but the possibility of them occurring should not be excluded
- Treatment is given every 12 weeks
- The procedure takes up to 15 minutes
- You may look tired and bruised after the treatment
Migraines have become a quite common medical issue nowadays, causing severe disability for the patients preventing them from taking part in their usual everyday activities. From essential oils, yoga, meditation, healthy diets, regular exercising to painkillers, these patients have tried it all, which is why they are in the search for an effective treatment for a change. That is how the researchers got to the idea of using Botox to treat migraines. Current evidence confirms that Botox can help alleviate the severity of migraines and prevent new ones. That said, Botox doesn’t work with other types of headaches or episodes that occur 14 or fewer days a month. Injection of Botox for this purpose requires a specific process where 31, but in some cases 40, injection sites are involved in head, shoulders, and neck. As you can understand given the information provided in today’s articles, the biggest risk of using Botox to relieve your migraines is for it not working in your case and leaving you disappointed at the end. Getting Botox injected is not the most pleasant experience and you need to be sure that you understand everything that there is to know about this procedure before you go forward with it. Before you decide to undergo this procedure, consult your doctor first. Your doctor’s professional opinion is the one that you should take into consideration. You and your doctor, together, can make the right decision.
[i] Migraine statistics, Migraine.com https://migraine.com/migraine-statistics/
[ii] Silberstein S, Matthew N, Saper J, Jenkins S. Botolinum toxin type A as a migraine preventive treatment. For the BOTOX Migraine Clinical Research Group. Headache 2000 Jun;40(6):445-50 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10849039
[iii] Diener HC, Dodick DW, Aurora SK, et al. OnobotulinumtoxinA for treatment of chronic migraine: Results from the double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled phase of the PREEMPT 2 trial. Cephalalgia 2010 Mar;30(7):804-14. Doi: 10.1177/0333102410364677 http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0333102410364677
[iv] Magalhaes E, Menezes C, Cardeal M. Melo A, Botulinum toxin type A versus amitriptyline for the treatment of chronic daily migraine, Clinical Neurology and Neurosurgery 2010 Jul;112(6):463-6. doi: 10.1016/j.clineuro.2010.02.004
[v] Will Botox help your migraines? Migraine Pal http://www.blog.migrainepal.com/blog/2015/7/11/will-botox-help-your-migraines
[vi] Botox for migraines: Does it work? WebMD https://www.webmd.com/migraines-headaches/botox-migraines#1