We’ve all heard of Botox, responsible for generations of smooth foreheads in Hollywood. But Botox has also brought relief to many people who suffer from chronic medical conditions. In 2010, Botox was approved for use with chronic migraine, and many patients are reporting success. What do you need to know before considering it?
Botox is only FDA-approved for chronic migraines, which means a headache on 15 or more days a month. Botox is not recommended for patients who experience fewer than 15 headache days a month.
Botox is a form of botulinum toxin, a neurotoxin produced by the bacteria that causes botulism. When the Botox botulinum toxin is purified and used in tiny doses in specific areas, it temporarily reduces muscle contractions for approximately 3 months.
Botox is injected around pain fibers that are involved in headaches. Botox enters the nerve endings around where it is injected and blocks the release of chemicals involved in pain transmission. This prevents the activation of pain networks in the brain.
Botox prevents migraine headaches before they start, but takes time to work. It could take up to the second and third treatments to maximize effects. One treatment lasts for 10-12 weeks, and patients reported that two Botox treatments reduced the number of headache days by approximately 50%.
The FDA approves the use of Botox to treat chronic migraines in adults who are age 18 or over.
Because Botox is FDA approved for chronic migraine, it’s covered by most plans, including Medicare and Medicaid. Please note that before your insurance company will approve Botox as a treatment for your chronic migraine, you typically must have tried and failed to respond to two other preventative treatments. These might include anti-seizure medications, antidepressants, or blood pressure medications that are typically used to prevent migraines.
When you receive your first Botox treatment, expect the appointment to take about 20 minutes. The doctor uses a very small needle that feels like a pinprick. He or she injects small amounts of Botox into shallow muscles in the skin.
The most common side effect from the Botox shots is a soreness, and we recommend using an ice pack to reduce the discomfort.
It can take up to six months to see the maximum benefit from Botox. In the meantime, you can continue your regular medications with no risk of a drug interaction.