Botox for migraines - everything you need to know
Anyone who has experienced a migraine knows they are so much more than a headache. Especially painful and disruptive, they affect around one billion people worldwide and are classified by the World Health Organisation as one of the most disabling illnesses.
Fortunately, there are treatments available to help alleviate the symptoms – and this includes Botox.
So much more than a wrinkle buster, Botox has become an incredibly versatile medical therapy, which can be used to relieve the side-effects of chronic migraines.
But is using Botox for migraines the right treatment for you?
Duration of results
Back to work
Full recovery time
No recovery time
>42 AED per unit
Optional pain relief
How does Botox for migraines work?
Botox, also known as Botulinum Toxin, was first used in the 1970s to treat crossed eyes. Designed to block chemical messengers that tell your muscles to contract, it’s this that stops wrinkles and lines forming.
However, it also acts to block neurotransmitters that carry pain signals, so an injection may reduce discomfort in the forehead caused by other conditions too.
Botox first started being used as a treatment for headaches around the year 2000, after a number of people who’d had Botox for cosmetic reasons reported an improvement in their symptoms. It was then licensed as a treatment for chronic migraines in 2010.
Doctors now use it for all kinds of other conditions, including muscle spasms, excess sweating and bladder control.
How often do you need Botox treatments for migraines?
Research has shown that following two rounds of treatment, chronic migraine patients experienced, on average, eight fewer days of headaches in a six-month period than they normally would.
After a year, the number of headaches had halved in 70 per cent of patients.
For chronic migraines, you will usually receive between 30 and 40 shots – each containing around four units of Botox – around your head and neck, with the same dose on either side of your head. If you tend to get pain in one specific area, your doctor may add more shots there.
It takes around 20 minutes to administer the treatment. After your first session, you can have it done every 12 weeks. The effects will sometimes wear off before that, but it’s not recommended to have the treatment more than every three months.
You’ll start noticing the results around two to three weeks after your first treatment, and they usually last around three months.
Individual benefits can vary, but multiple studies show a reduction in the number of migraines experienced. It typically takes two rounds of treatment to establish if it works for you.
Is Botox safe as a migraine treatment?
When administered by a licensed and experienced clinician, Botox is a safe and reputable procedure. It has been used for decades and is very unlikely to spread beyond the treatment area.
Do Botox injections hurt?
Botox needles are just like having any other injection, so you’ll feel a mild scratch each time. The procedure is over pretty quickly, and your clinician will likely give you an ice pack to soothe your skin at the end if it is sore.
What are the side-effects?
The most common is neck pain, but some people do experience others, including:
- Soreness, swelling and redness.
- Dry mouth.
These tend to last only a few hours or days, and they can usually be treated at home with pain relief. If you experience longer lasting or more serious side-effects, this can be a sign of an allergic reaction, so speak to your doctor or seek medical attention if you are concerned.
Who is most suitable for the treatment?
Anyone whose migraine attacks occur over a long period of time or frequently – usually defined as 15 or more days a month. However, anyone who experiences episodes should feel free to speak to their doctor about Botox for headaches.
If you experience chronic forehead tension and discomfort, Botox isn’t necessarily a permanent solution – so you will need to consider having multiple treatments.
Besides Botox, there are some other treatments you can try for your migraines. This includes:
- Acupuncture – by stimulating the nerves, acupuncture can release hormones that help relieve migraines and tension headaches.
- Massage – scalp massages can be very helpful, and are a natural way to ease the pain temporarily. They can ease tension in the jaw, neck and shoulders too, which can be the root cause of headaches and migraines in some cases.
- Diet and nutrition – alcohol, excessive coffee (more than two cups a day), chocolate, aged cheeses and citrus fruits can all be potential triggers for migraines. Cutting these down or gradually removing them from your diet may help.
Botox and migraines facts
- The ‘Father of Medicine’, Hippocrates, is thought to be the first to describe the symptoms of a migraine – doing so in 400BC.
- There are 3,000 migraine attacks for every one million people each day. That’s roughly 21 million daily migraine attacks worldwide.
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