Botox May Provide Relief for Chronic Headaches
Is your head pounding... Again?
If you suffer from chronic headaches, you may be a candidate for Botox injections to help prevent headaches before they start.
As a family medicine physician, I have sought additional training to become certified in providing relief from chronic headaches using Botox, as has physician assistant Jason Zinnel. Jason and I recommend patients visit their family practitioner to determine if Botox injections are a viable treatment. If appropriate, your provider will refer you to myself or Jason for treatments.
Botox is approved by the Food & Drug Administration for treatment of chronic migraines, which means the patient has frequent headaches at least 15 days out of the month that last four or more hours each of those days.
Once a patient is approved for Botox treatments, initially two treatment appointments are scheduled, 12 weeks apart. Treatments are performed in a normal exam room and typically take about 15 minutes. A thin needle, approximately one half-inch in length, is used for a series of shallow injections for a total of 30-40 injections in the head and neck muscles, which feel like tiny pinpricks.
Twelve weeks after the second series of injections, we’ll determine how well Botox treatments are working for you. If the treatments are reducing the number of headaches each month, treatments will continue every 12 weeks. Routinely, we’ll continue to evaluate how well treatments are working for each individual.
Botox is a prescription form of the neurotoxin botulinum. When ingested, it can cause a deadly reaction known as botulism as it blocks signals from your nerves and paralyzes face muscles. However, several years ago it was discovered that careful injections of botulinum in a medical-grade form could help smooth wrinkles, as it relaxed muscles in the face. Then, a number of patients who were getting Botox injections for cosmetic reasons reported fewer headaches, which lead to the approval for Botox treatment or chronic headache sufferers.
As with many types of medical treatment, patients may experience side effects. The most common side effects are neck pain, headache, slight or partial facial paralysis, eyelid dropping, muscle stiffness or muscle weakness. And, to answer a common question, yes, if prescribed Botox injections for your chronic headaches, you may also see a cosmetic benefit.