Why does Botox help migraines?

Have you ever experienced an intense, debilitating headache? For 30 million Americans, these incapacitating headaches, or migraine headaches, can cause severe pain on a regular basis and disrupt their lives. According to the American Migraine Foundation, migraine headaches are an inherited neurological disorder that are caused by an overexcitability of certain areas within the brain.

Luckily, promising treatments like Botox, which was approved by the FDA to treat chronic migraines in 2010, are emerging victorious. But why does Botox help migraines?

What is Botox?

Botox is a medication prepared from a toxin created by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, which causes food poisoning (botulism), says MedlinePlus. Since being approved by the FDA for cosmetic use in December 1989, Botox has been widely used to temporarily smooth facial wrinkles. Somewhere along the way, doctors found that small doses of Botox are also useful in treating migraine headaches.Everyone knows what Botox can do for your looks, but why does Botox help migraines?

Why does Botox help migraines?

The exact reason Botox prevents migraines is uncertain. According to the Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association, one theory suggests that Botox helps to relax muscles and reduce tightness in certain areas, thus reducing the sensitivity to migraines and triggers. Since Botox has minimal side effects, it can safely and effectively help adults with chronic migraines.

With what frequency does Botox successfully treat migraines?

Botox is administered in adults who suffer from chronic migraine, or over 15 migraine days per month. A recent study published in the Journal of Headache and Pain showed that of 254 adults with chronic migraine, Botox was effective in reducing migraine days by at least 50 percent while increasing the number of headache-free days in half of the patients.

Where is Botox injected?

Your doctor will give you multiple injections to seven special spots, or trigger points, that are associated with migraines. These spots include the scalp, back of the head and neck, and shoulders. Botox can be typically administered in less than 15 minutes in your doctor’s office.

How often would I receive injections?

Your doctor will inject Botox every 12 weeks for 15 months. Patients report successful outcomes of reduced migraine intensity and frequency lasting one to three months.

Will Botox alter my appearance?

In most cases, Botox used for the treatment of migraines should not affect the muscles in your face that would change your cosmetic appearance. For injections made to the face, side effects may include a more youthful brow, says the Northeastern Migraine Surgery Center.

Will my insurance cover Botox?

While the Botox medication is relatively expensive, the American Headache Society notes that most health insurance plans cover the cost of Botox treatments if they’re used to treat chronic migraine. You may also qualify for assistance with out-of-pocket costs, says Allergan, Botox’s drug company. Speak with your insurance company about your responsibility before you begin treatment.

Contact your doctor to determine if you are a candidate of Botox for the treatment of migraines.

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