Written by Dr Mohjir Baloch for Doctify

Getting Botox injections for headaches sounds like an elaborate excuse to get rid of your wrinkles in the name of medicine. However, the cosmetic procedure has been shown to help in some cases of chronic migraine.

Here to tell us more is Doctify Pain Management Specialist Dr Mohjir Baloch.

I thought Botox was for wrinkles?

Botox is used for a variety of cosmetic and medical conditions. Interestingly, the use of Botox for migraine was initially discovered to be effective by people had had injections for cosmetic reasons. As well as smoother foreheads, they also found their migraines improved. It has been licensed for use in chronic migraine since 2010.

What is Botox?

Botulinum toxin is produced by the clostridium botulinum bacteria and is responsible for causing botulism. This is a disease in which the muscles are paralysed.

There are seven different subtypes of botulinum toxin (A-G). A highly dilute form of botulinum toxin type A (Botox) is used for medical purposes.

How does it help headaches?

No one really knows for sure, but it is thought that botox blocks pain signals in key pain pathways involved in causing the headache associated with migraine. The effect it has on the muscles is thought to be irrelevant for headaches.

If successful, Botox can cut the number of headache days in half.

What type of headaches does Botox work for?

Botox only works for chronic migraine, i.e. those having 15 or more headaches a month of which at least half are migraines. It does not work for any other type of headache.

Botox has been approved for the treatment of chronic migraine by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) and by the FDA.

How is it given and what are the side effects?

It is injected around the head and neck using a tiny needle that feels like a pin prick and takes about 15 minutes to do. The treatment is repeated every 12 weeks if successful. The response from the treatment can take a few weeks to become noticeable.

The most common side effect is neck pain which occurs in around 1 in 10 patients. More uncommon side effects include muscle stiffness, weakness and spasm and a few patients develop eyelid drooping.

No serious irreversible side effects have been reported in trials of Botox thus far.

 


 

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