Botox For Migraine Prevention

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It is no secret that Botox is well-known today to get rid of facial  wrinkles and other cosmetic uses.

Over time, the use of Botox expanded as the doctors discovered that Botox shots aren’t only for preserving a youthful look – they can bring relief to people suffering from a number of medical conditions.

If you are one of us, migraine warriors, you must have heard about the use of Botox in migraine. It has been approved for the prevention of chronic migraines for almost a decade now, is well-tolerated, beneficial, and appears to be safe for long-term management of chronic migraine.

This must have sparked your interest, as well. So, what do you need to know about using Botox for migraine prevention? How can you get these treatments? Read our article to find out!

What Is Botox?

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Botox, short for Botulinum Toxin Type A,  is a drug produced from a neurotoxin derived from the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. The same toxin can cause the most dangerous type of food poisoning – botulism. That may seem frightening, but doctors are using very small doses to treat health and cosmetic issues.

Botox injections are commonly used to smooth over wrinkles on the face and neck of women as well as men. The cosmetic uses of Botox are most popular, but the botulinum toxin product can be used to treat various other issues.

For example, Botox therapy is also used to treat excessive underarm sweating, also known as hyperhidrosis. This is an extremely effective practice and this treatment gives long-lasting relief to the patients in need.

Other notable uses of Botox for non-aesthetic treatment

  • Blepharospasm – a medical condition that causes uncontrollable blinking
  • Overactive bladder, or polyuria
  • Cervical dystonia – a neurological condition that causes severe muscle contractions in the shoulder and neck
  • Strabismus – a medical condition associated with misaligned eyes
  • Chronic migraine

How Does Botox Work?

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Botox blocks the release of chemical signals that cause muscle contractions, causing temporary paralysis of the muscles and dampening pain signals to help muscles be less stiff.

How Does Botox Work For Chronic Migraine?

Initially, some people receiving injections for cosmetic treatment of facial lines reported improvement of headaches. Two large studies in 2010 later showed the benefit of Botox in reducing the number of headache days and improving quality of life. 

To prevent chronic migraine, Botox is injected around the pain fibers responsible for headaches and modifies the release of chemical signals linked to pain transmission. Because the pain transmission is blocked, the pain networks in the brain stay inactivated.

The Botox shots for migraines prevent the migraine attack from happening in the first place. On the other hand, keep in mind that the therapy can take some time to start working.

What Is Botox Treatment For Migraine Like?

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Well, the Botox treatment itself is a relatively safe procedure. Also, the procedure doesn’t last very long – the doctor should be done with the injections in 15 to 30 minutes.

Moreover, what is so great is that you don’t need to do much to prepare yourself for the procedure. Do note that the doctor might ask you to refrain from using some medications in a few days before the procedure.

Do try to remember to inform your doctor if you have undergone Botox in the past month. That applies to all kinds of Botox injections, even those that weren’t a part of the chronic migraine treatment.

When the doctor starts the procedure, the service will start with a topical anesthetic first, to numb your skin. After that, the doctor will give you the shots – and you may receive multiple shots in the areas of the head and neck where you feel the pain.

If the doctor uses a topical anesthetic before they start the injections, the headache treatment itself will likely be painless. However, you can feel a slight pinch-like sensation nonetheless, but nothing too painful either way.

The doctor will advise you on the frequency of your Botox therapy. Commonly, you will be asked to come in every 12 weeks to prevent or lessen the effects of migraine headaches.

Each time, you will receive several shots in the areas you feel the pain during the migraine attack. Generally, you will get around 30 to 40 injections total – but the number can vary on the severity and frequency of your headaches. Some patients will be prescribed more treatment cycles for migraines, while others will receive fewer treatments in total.

The migraine warrior will receive an equal number of shots on each side of the head and neck. If the pain is concentrated in one spot, the patient may receive more Botox in that area.

Do note that the Botox injections don’t offer immediate relief – you will need to wait two to three weeks post-appointment to see the results.

What Are The Side Effects Of Botox For Migraines?

Just like any medical treatment – side effects are a part of the experience. The most common mild side effects are:

  • Neck pain
  • Droopy eyelids
  • Headaches
  • Muscle spasms and stiffness
  • Botox injection site pain

What Information Should People Know About Before Undergoing Botox?

Do keep in mind that the Botox injections for headaches come with a boxed warning. Talk with your doctor if any of the symptoms like muscle weakness above persist for longer than a few weeks. For example, droopy eyelids can cause vision problems for a short while, but the Botulinum toxin effects should go away within a few weeks.

Although very unlikely, it’s possible for the toxin in the injection to spread in your body. Call your doctor right away if you notice any of these effects hours to weeks after receiving Botox:

  • Hives
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling in lower legs
  • Muscle weakness
  • Vision problems
  • Trouble speaking or swallowing
  • Breathing problems
  • Loss of bladder control

What Type Of Migraine Is Botox Treatment Suited For?

Unfortunately, not every migraine warrior is suitable for Botox therapy for their headache. If you want to know if you’re the candidate for Botox for migraine, talk with your doctor.

The truth is – only migraine warriors living with chronic migraines can be eligible for Botox injections. These include those who experience at least 15 days of headache each month. Also, they experience headaches with migraine-like symptoms at least 8 days every month, for more than 3 months at a time. The chronic migraine headache usually begins with episodes that aren’t so frequent, and it gradually becomes a frequent pattern of headache episodes.

Who Can Use Botox Treatments For Migraine?

The Food and Drugs Administration approved the use of Botox for migraine relief purposes for adults over the age of 18.

Now, the injections for this purpose are considered an ‘off-label’ treatment when used on children or adolescents. The ‘off-label’ therapy is a therapy that can be prescribed by doctors, but the insurance companies are not obligated to cover the costs in that case.

Can Botulinum Toxin Treatments Be Covered For Migraine?

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Getting some things covered by your insurance can be a handful – we all know that far too well. Asking your insurance for help paying for a new treatment like the Botox injection can take quite a long time.

The FDA has recommended a dose of 155 units for adults. The treatment costs anywhere between $300 and $600 every single time.

What is truly lucky is that the FDA has approved the use of Botox for the treatment of chronic migraines. Because of that, the treatments are covered at least partially by most insurance plans, including Medicaid and Medicare.

Some insurance companies like Allergan offer a “Botox Savings” account so you can save up money and pay the reduced fees for your treatments.

How To Get Approved For Botox Treatment?

Most insurance companies will require you to go through an authorization process before they approve you for these treatments for migraines. Generally, you will have to try two or more different medications and fail to respond to them first. Only then, the insurance company will approve you for Botox.

The medications you will be obliged to try are commonly anti-seizure medications, blood pressure drugs, and antidepressants – all in all, drugs typically used to prevent migraine attacks. If you decide that you don’t want to go through the process and want to start now – your insurance plan may not cover the injections and you may need to pay out-of-pocket for each appointment.

How To Find A Doctor That Does Botox Migraine Treatment?

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Botox injections need to be given by a licensed healthcare provider. The doctor needs to have completed training to give the shots for chronic migraine treatment specifically. If the doctor is trained for injecting Botulinum toxin for cosmetic use, that simply will not do.

Consider talking to your GP about headache clinics that offer this type of treatment. Your GP may be able to recommend headache specialists or special clinics that offer this procedure.

The specialist should inform you beforehand about each injection site and all the potential risks of the injections, like the spread of toxin effects.

Bottom Line

To conclude, Botox could be perfect for the prevention of chronic migraine. What is even better, most insurance plans cover at least a portion of the costs so people don’t have to cover the entire cost of the procedure.

Most side effects of the procedure for migraines are temporary, but be on the lookout if the symptoms persist. Pain at the injection site is normal for a bit but talk with your doctor if you are worried about anything.

All in all, Botox injections could be the perfect way to get relief from chronic migraine!

Jenny from Migraine Buddy
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