Botox Treatment for Migraines
Commonly known for smoothing wrinkles and improving or enhancing one’s looks and features, Botox is now gaining popularity among adults in another area – treating chronic migraine headaches. According to research about 12% of the American population today is affected with migraine, and in 2010, the FDA stated that Botox injections can prove to be effective in preventing migraines, which are characterized as debilitating headaches that result in intense pulsing or throbbing pains.
Migraines are also referred to as ‘sick headaches’, since they generally occur along with nausea and sensitivity to sound and light. In a recent news release, the MD of the FDA Russell Katz stated that patients suffering from chronic migraines experience headaches that can last for more than 14 days in a single month! This critically affects family and social life, hence other alternative and effective treatment approaches are much sought after to make it bearable
Botox – An Alternative Treatment to End Pain
Botox is derived from the word botulinum toxin, a neurotoxin produced by botulism-causing bacteria. When purified and administered in small doses around specific areas, this neurotoxin can temporarily reduce muscular contractions for about six months. Botox penetrates the nerve ends and blocks chemicals involved in pain transmission.
According to the FDA, Botox injections for treating chronic migraine headaches should be administered by qualified medical specialists after intervals of every 12 weeks. This involves a number of injections, specifically 31 labeled doses, injected around seven distinct areas of the neck and head, with the intent of suppressing future symptoms. This treatment regime is expected to provide relief lasting for up to three months, based on the patient’s overall well-being.
How Does This Work?
Now that you know the basics, the medical team have compiled some crucial information that you must consider before getting yourself into a Botox treatment regime.
Who Will the Treatment Work for?
The makers of Botox, Allergan Inc., have emphasized that the FDA’s approval for this sort of treatment applies only to those who suffer from ‘chronic migraine’, which is defined as a severe neurological disorder in which patients have a headache for a minimum of 15 days every month, lasting for about four hours a day and even longer. The treatment is comparatively less beneficial for episodic migraines (headaches lasting for 0 to 14 days per month) or tension-type headaches (mild or moderate headaches brought on by muscular contractions in the head and neck regions).
According to an investigative review published in the Journal of Medical Association in 2010, 31 clinical trials of treating migraine headaches with Botox were examined which included 5,313 patients. 27 of these trials compared placebos to Botox and the remaining four were randomized clinical trials comparing headache medications (amitriptyline (Elavil), topiramate (Topamax, prednisone and valproate (Depakote) to Botox.
An analysis of the placebo-controlled trials showed that Botox contributed towards an average of ‘two fewer headaches’ a month for both, chronic migraine patients and chronic daily headaches. The report also confirmed that Botox was of no help for those suffering from episodic migraines or chronic tension-type headaches.
How Effective is the Treatment?
According to Dr. Jeffery Jackson, Professor of Medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Botox is a ‘preventive’ medication for chronic migraine headaches and not an ‘abortive’ one. Moreover, the effect is also ‘small to modest’ for chronic sufferers. Nevertheless, Dr. Jackson encouraged patients to give Botox a try, since it has few side-effects and even a modest improvement in symptoms can be life-changing.
What are the Side effects?
Despite affecting less than 10% of chronic migraine sufferers, Botox treatment does have some side effects. The most common side-effect experienced by 9% of the patients in clinical trials was neck pain. Rare side effects reported include headaches, minimal or partial facial paralysis, drooping eyelids, bronchitis, muscle weakness, and musculoskeletal stiffness, pain in ligaments, bones and tendons, muscle spasms, and hypertension.
Having said that, it must be remembered that every individual is different, and for some the risks may outweigh the benefits. Certain patients have reported feelings of severe choking, numbness in the head and sensitivity to touch. However, most testimonials are positive and encouraging enough for people to consider giving Botox treatment a try.
Who Should Administer the Treatment?
It is recommended that a competent headache specialist or neurologist should be consulted for treatment. At a recent meeting of the American Headache Society in Washington DC, Allergan heavily invested in briefing the board-certified headache physicians about effective methods and injection sites for treating chronic migraine patients with Botox. According to Dr. Ezriel Kornel, a Neurosurgeon at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mt. Kisco, N.Y, properly administered Botox injections by a qualified and experienced physician hardly result in any substantial side-effects.
How Many Trials Are Needed for a Fair Assessment?
For a fair trial, the patient will receive injections two to three times over a period of six to nine months. This is useful since the muscles need some time to train themselves to relax, hence recurrent doses are required. Also, some patients have reported that their side-effects varied every time they got treated. Therefore, don’t give up treatment on the first try – reconsider whether you are up for it after at least three tries.
How much does Botox for migraines cost?
Botox for treating chronic migraine headaches is a high cost-high benefit decision. A typical dose of Botox for migraine is 155 units and Botox for treating migraine costs £600 at our Chelsea clinic.
There are many safe, effective and non-injectable ways to prevent migraine headaches, such as magnesium, Cefaly, Yoga, and physiotherapy. So before you chose to try Botox, weigh the pros and cons carefully.