Chronic migraine headaches are no fun. Sadly, some people get little relief from their pounding head discomfort even when they take medication. Now, there’s another option — Botox injections for chronic headache pain. The FDA has endorsed Botox injections for treating migraine headaches that don’t respond to other treatments. How effective are Botox injections for migraine headaches?
Botox for Migraines
Not every migraine sufferer is a candidate for Botox injections for migraine treatment. This treatment is usually reserved for migraine patients who deal with migraine headaches on an almost daily basis — at least fourteen days out of the month. It’s not an appropriate option for the person who has infrequent migraine headaches.
What is It Like to Get Botox Injections for Migraines?
Needless to say, Botox injections aren’t the best treatment option for people who fear needles. It takes an average of thirty Botox injections into various parts of the head and neck to get the full benefits of Botox. As you can imagine, the injections aren’t inexpensive. You have to hope your insurance company picks up the tab! Otherwise the cost can be substantial.
Is It Worth It?
Here’s the bad news about Botox for migraines. After enduring thirty needlesticks to the head and neck, Botox is unlikely to leave a migraine sufferer headache free. It only reduces the number of total headaches monthly by an average of two or three. Of course that’s two or three extra days each month someone suffering from migraines can enjoy a pain-free day — so it may be worth it.
Are There Side Effects?
Serious side effects from Botox injections for migraines are rare. The most common complaint is headache and mild neck pain. Neck pain affects about 9% of people who get Botox injections for migraines. Muscle weakness is a less common side effect. The Botox toxin can potentially migrate into tissues around the injection site. This migration can theoretically lead to problems swallowing or breathing, although there are no reports of this in the literature. It’s a relatively safe, although slightly uncomfortable, procedure.
The Bottom Line?
Botox injections for migraines have the potential to modestly decrease the number of days a person experiences migraine headaches. On the other hand, it’s only approved for migraine sufferers who have very frequent migraine headaches. It’s also important to get the injections performed by an experienced doctor to lower the risk of unwanted side effects.
Botox has no benefit for treating other types of headache pain. The best plan is to try other migraine headache treatments first, and if they don’t work, keep a headache diary to see how frequently migraines are occurring. If they’re occurring more than fourteen times a month, talk to your doctor about the possibility of using Botox. It’s not just for wrinkles anymore.
New York Times. “Botox Wins FDA Approval as Migraine Treatment”
Family Practice News. November 1, 2010. page 13.