Anyone who suffers from chronic migraines wants to do more than simply treat them—they want to prevent the migraines from reoccurring. The intense pain and related migraine symptoms can prevent you from working, doing the things you love, and even leave you bedridden more than once per week. In fact, according to the Migraine Research Foundation, more than 90% of those who suffer from migraines are unable to work or function normally during an attack.
Currently, Botox injections are the only FDA-approved treatment to prevent chronic migraines. Before we discuss the benefits of Botox injections, however, let’s take a closer look at migraines.
If you suffer from 15 or more migraine headaches within a month, then you’re considered to have “chronic” migraines. Symptoms of a migraine headache often include:
Usually, migraine symptoms last between 4 and 72 hours.
Many people also report symptoms prior to experiencing the actual migraine. In fact, these symptoms often arrive in stages. For example, a day or two before your migraine, you may experience:
These subtle changes constitute the first (or prodrome) stage of a migraine.
The second stage (often referred to as an aura) occurs immediately before, and sometimes even during, the migraine attack. Aural stage symptoms may include:
After the attack during the postdrome stage, patients often report feeling drained or confused for up to a day. You may also experience brief bursts of pain whenever you suddenly move your head.
As you know, dealing with chronic migraines can completely consume your life. Just as you’re recovering from one migraine, another one occurs. It’s a frustrating, debilitating event that may leave you feeling hopeless.
For chronic migraine sufferers, regaining a better quality of life isn’t just about treating the actual migraine. It’s all about prevention!
Preventing migraine attacks starts with understanding what causes them. So, let’s dive into migraine pathophysiology even further…
Pinpointing the exact causes of migraine headaches can be complicated. Why? A confluence of factors may be to blame.
Researchers believe that genetics and family history make individuals more prone to developing migraine headaches. The weather, specifically a change in barometric pressure, may play a slight role. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot you can do to intervene in factors such as these.
But don’t lose hope. Many other contributing factors to migraine headaches can be addressed.
According to the American Migraine Foundation, medical conditions such as anxiety, mood disorders, insomnia, jaw disorders, asthma, sleep apnea, and hormonal changes may trigger migraines. Luckily, many of these problems are treatable conditions.
Your lifestyle may also trigger migraines. Adverse lifestyle factors that can contribute to migraines often include:
To gain better insight into the causes of your specific migraine headaches, you should consider keeping a headache diary. Journal about when your migraine started, the symptoms, how long it lasted, and what contributing factors (such as missing a meal, poor sleep, etc.) may be to blame.
A headache diary can be an invaluable resource for your doctor and/or treatment team to pinpoint the recurrent events that trigger your migraines. Furthermore, your doctors can use this information to develop an effective plan of action to eradicate your migraines.
Most people associate Botox with cosmetic procedures. In cosmetics, Botox injections function to temporarily reduce the appearance of facial wrinkles. Since the turn of this century, trained professionals have administered millions of Botox injections to give consumers a more youthful appearance.
But, did you know that Botox can also help with medical conditions such as muscle contractures, hyperhidrosis, bladder dysfunction, and a lazy eye?
And, most significantly, Botox injections serve as an FDA-approved means of treating chronic migraines.
You may be surprised to discover Botox is actually made from a toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. This toxin is actually associated with a dangerous type of food poisoning known as botulism.
Of course, a Botox injection contains a very small, safe level of this toxin.
Generally speaking, Botox injections temporarily paralyze or weaken target muscles and block certain chemical signals to nerves. The effects of Botox can last for 3 to 12 months depending on the condition it’s being used to treat.
Just how Botox reacts with nearby nerves is a little complicated. But, to put it simply, once injected, Botox attaches to motor neurons (nerve cells) to slow or stop the release of target chemicals that control pain transmission. As a result, certain pain networks that lead to the brain are not activated.
Several studies have been conducted on the use of onabotulinumtoxinA (Botox) to determine its safety and effectiveness. A review of these studies concluded that “[there is] good clinical evidence that treatment with onabotulinumtoxinA leads to a reduction of monthly headache days and improves quality of life.”
The thought of injecting a “toxin” into your body—especially your head—might seem kind of scary. Rest assured, however, that when a qualified doctor administers the correct dose, the risks are low and the side effects are generally mild.
A small number of patients report neck pain, injection site pain, headaches, droopy eyelids, or muscular weakness. These side effects typically don’t last for very long, and, in many cases, are much more tolerable than the symptoms associated with chronic migraines.
A typical Botox injection treatment lasts just under a half-hour. During the procedure, your doctor uses a tiny needle to inject small amounts of Botox into the muscles just under the skin. You will be given several shots in key areas of the head and neck known to be associated with migraine headaches. Often, patients describe the pain from the shots as “very minor.”
It is safe to return home immediately after the procedure. In most cases, you can even drive yourself home.
The standard treatment timeline for receiving Botox is every 12 weeks.
It may take several weeks to six months to receive the full benefits of Botox for chronic migraines. During this time, you can continue your other medications without worrying about drug interactions.
If you’ve been diagnosed with chronic migraines and failed to respond to other treatments, Botox may be covered by your insurance provider. Depending on your insurance, you may have to pay for a portion of the procedure or meet a simple co-pay.
Check with your insurance provider to confirm your actual out-of-pocket costs.
It’s time to take control of your chronic migraines. Integrated Pain Consultants have a highly skilled team dedicated to treating pain and restoring your life. In addition, we have three offices conveniently located throughout the Greater Phoenix Valley.
Want to see why Phoenix Magazine has awarded our team “Top Doc” in pain management status for 5 years? Schedule an appointment today by calling (480) 210-6059.
We’ll discuss the symptoms of your chronic migraines and how they’re affecting your life. Together we’ll form a treatment plan, which may include Botox injections, to empower you to enjoy a better life.