Botox has long been known as a treatment for reducing facial lines and wrinkles. But did you know that the same anti-wrinkle treatment can also provide much-needed relief for chronic migraine headaches? Studies have shown promising results, and many patients have reported considerable migraine relief with Botox.
Read on as Dr. Ali Ghafouri of Arizona Oculoplastic Specialists discusses how Botox can help relieve chronic migraines, what studies have found, and frequently asked questions about treatment.
How It Works
As an anti-wrinkle treatment, Botox works by blocking nerve signals that trigger facial muscles to contract and form common facial expressions like smiling, frowning, etc., which in turn are responsible for certain wrinkles and lines. With the injected facial muscles no longer being able to contract, the wrinkles on the overlying skin smoothen and appear softer.
It was first discovered that Botox injections could potentially be used to alleviate migraine headaches when patients began reporting a reduction in the incidence of migraine headaches after receiving Botox for anti-wrinkle treatment. As Botox enters the nerve endings near the site where it is injected, it blocks the release of chemicals and other neurotransmitters involved in pain transmission, preventing the activation of pain networks in the brain.
What Studies Have Found
A review and analysis published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery®, the official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, found that Botox is an effective treatment for reducing the frequency of chronic migraine headaches. Researchers analyzed data from 17 previous randomized trials comparing Botox with a placebo for preventive treatment of migraine headaches. The studies looked at a total of 1,550 individuals with chronic migraines. The analysis found that chronic migraine patients treated with Botox injections had an average of 1.6 fewer migraine attacks per month, compared to those treated with an inactive placebo. Researchers note that improvement was apparent within two months of Botox treatments.
Since its FDA approval in 2010, there have been approximately 2 million chronic migraine treatments with Botox administered in over 500,000 chronic migraine patients. Botox is a preventive treatment, meaning it prevents headaches and migraines before they start. According to Botox manufacturer Allergan, one treatment prevents an average of eight to nine migraine headache days.
Can Botox treat any type of headache?
Currently Botox is only FDA-approved for the treatment of migraine headaches. There is insufficient evidence that Botox is an effective treatment for other types of headaches like cluster headaches.
What happens during treatment?
Treatment with Botox takes approximately 15 minutes to complete. Prior to treatment, your medical provider will apply a topical anesthetic on the injection sites to minimize discomfort. Using a thin needle, the provider will inject small amounts of Botox into targeted muscles, which are typically located in seven key areas of the head and neck. Treatment typically involves about 20 to 30 injections in total.
What should I expect after treatment?
There is no downtime with Botox. Immediately after treatment, you will be able to return to work and resume all other normal activities. Some soreness at the injection sites is to be expected but this should subside quickly.
When will I see results?
You may begin to feel migraine relief as soon as one week after treatment. However, it can take up to one month for the maximum benefits of Botox to take effect.
What are common side effects of Botox?
Minor side effects of Botox include pain and soreness at the injection sites. Other side effects include unwanted muscle weakness, blurry vision, dry mouth and difficulty swallowing. Most side effects resolve within seven to 10 days after treatment.
How often should I get Botox treatments?
How often you should get Botox for migraine headaches depends on several factors, including the severity and frequency of your headaches. How long the effects of one treatment session last also influences how often you should get repeat sessions. Results in most patients last as long as three months and most treatments are scheduled 12 weeks apart.
Can I still take acute medication for my migraines once I begin treatment with Botox?
You may still be able to take acute medications after starting Botox treatment if your doctor allows it.
Can my health insurance pay for my Botox migraine treatment?
In some instances, health insurance plans cover Botox for treatment of chronic migraine headaches. Dr. Ghafouri’s team can help you verify insurance coverage and file the necessary claims.
As a board-certified oculoplastic surgeon and trusted Botox provider, Dr. Ghaufori can determine whether you are a good candidate for migraine treatment with Botox. To learn more about treatment or discuss candidacy requirements, please schedule a personal consultation with Dr. Ghafouri. Call (480) 905-1010 or email our office today.