Botox is said to decrease the frequency of migraine days by an average of 50 percent for those who suffer chronically (people who experience 15 or more headache days per month).
Much like other fillers, Botox is slowly metabolized in the system, so for it to remain effective, patients have to get the procedure every three months or so.
Let's talk about migraines — namely, chronic migraines.
First of all, for those who aren't familiar with migraines, they're different from headaches. Headaches are unpleasant, too, but are typically less severe than migraines and don't usually present with other symptoms besides the pressure and aching in the head. Migraines, on the other hand, can be much more intense and often come with nausea, seeing spots, vomiting, extreme fatigue, sensitivity to light and sound, and more. They affect 39 million folks in the U.S., 4 million of whom deal with daily pain. Chronic migraines can severely inhibit daily life.
How is Botox for migraines different from cosmetic Botox?
The Botox used for migraines and the Botox used for cosmetic procedures is actually exactly the same. Basically, young and middle-aged women were getting [Botox] for cosmetic purposes, and that’s the most common person that has migraines, and that’s how they figured out it was helpful. Women were getting Botox for aesthetic reasons and happened to notice relief from their migraine symptoms, and doctors began looking into it as a direct treatment. In fact, women are disproportionately affected by migraines — about 85 percent of chronic-migraine sufferers are women, and the condition affects 28 million in just the U.S.
The only difference between the two procedures is that with Botox for migraines, they may do a few more shots in areas where the pain is experienced. Botox for migraines can have the same aesthetic effect that cosmetic Botox has.
How does it work, and how effective is it?
Though there's still more research to be done on Botox for migraines and doctors aren't yet completely sure why the procedure is effective, they have some ideas. What [Botox] does is paralyze nerve terminals. Essentially, nerve terminals transmit pain, but they also produce pain substances while they’re doing that, and it completely paralyzes that process. It stops the process of pain patterning and it also relaxes the muscles.
It's very effective among a large sampling of patients and is usually very well tolerated. Some patients find that it even eliminates the need for medication, which is a huge deal. However, about 7 to 10 percent of my patients find that it’s not effective. As with any medical procedure, everybody (and everyone's actual body) is different and will respond to treatment differently, and it's best to do a healthy amount of research and thoroughly talk to your doctor about your body and medical history before making a decision.
What are the potential side effects?
The side effects of Botox typically don't happen at the doses prescribed for migraines, and even if the scary-sounding side effects you read about online do occur, they aren't particularly dangerous and last four to six weeks. Most commonly, people have pain because you’re dealing with a bunch of shots, and sometimes you can get a headache from the procedure.
After the treatment, what comes next? How long does it last?
Some doctors recommend lying down and resting after a treatment, but there isn't any need for downtime unless a patient experiences pain. It can take about two weeks to work, though some patients start to feel relief from chronic migraines sooner than that. If it’s going to work for a patient, one round of the treatment typically lasts for around three months. Though everybody metabolizes it at a different rate, getting it done every three months or so has been found to be effective.
For more information on Botox for migraines, contact Comprehensive Pain Management in Warwick, RI.