Is there a Botox migraines connection?

The words Botox migraines headaches pain relief have been all the media buzz for the last couple of years. But can Botox really help prevent your migraines?

Botox has been used for a few years as a treatment

for wrinkles. Dr. Michael Kane (author of The Botox Book ) pioneered it's use for cosmetics in 1991. Eventually, of course, migraine sufferers were among those treated (after all, there are so many of us!) and reports began to trickle in that many of these patients were finding headache relief, as early as 1992.

What is Botox?

Botox, or botulinum toxin, is a purified toxin known as a neurotoxin. If that sounds scary, it can be if it's in your food – when food spoils this toxin can make you pretty sick. However, in medicine it doesn't go into the bloodstream but directly into the muscle, and the doses are very small compared to what would be needed to make you sick. Botox prevents the release of acetylcholine, a chemical which tenses up your muscles.

Botox migraines clinical trials

In June 2003 at the AHS Annual Scientific Meeting in Chicago, the results of a major study on Botox and migraine was presented. This was the largest scientific study to date. The results showed that 80% of headache sufferers said that their migraines were less frequent, less severe, or both. About ¾ of these patients had tried many other headache therapies (and that could be good news for many of us!).

A new study was made public in June 2005 by Dr. David Dodick, a professor of neurology at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Arizona, USA. He gave us some answers to the question,Who does Botox help? Not everyone, according to Dr. Dodick. He summarized:

"The worse their headaches, the more frequent the attacks, the more medicine they have to take to combat the pain, the better Botox seems to work."

So those who suffer from more chronic migraine may be the ones to try the Botox migraines treatment.

But why does Botox work on headaches?

But what's the Botox migraines connection? Why does it work? The most obvious possibility is that muscle tension plays a larger role in migraines than we first thought (much therapy focuses on blood vessels or neurological chemical factors). And so by relaxing the muscles, the headaches are not triggered. Botox also seems to cut down on our perception of pain, so that the headache itself wouldn't bother us as much. It does this by blocking a protein that carries pain messages to the brain.

An article from the Diamond Headache Clinic adds,"There are several theories why Botox may help migraine, including the theory that it may block nerves that then carry pain messages to the brain or may, in fact, even block certain chemicals that then contribute to migraine."

Botox migraines and You!

Botox is injected in liquid form under the skin into muscles. The most recent research suggests a fairly low dose and around 30 injections. The pain relief usually begins in about 2-3 weeks after the injections. The benefits last for about 10-13 weeks. Injections should not be given more than about every three months.

Deciding where to give the injections is really still in the experimental stages, but doctors now seem to be following a "follow the pain" concept, giving injections at the forehead, temples and neck.

There's lots of good news when it comes to Botox and migraines. First, it has had a very good safety record and tends to have many less side effects than other migraine medications. It may be especially helpful for patients who are taking a great deal of other medications and need to stop. Or, if your medication is expensive you may find that injections of Botox every 3 months is cheaper. This is still a relatively new drug, and in many countries has not been officially approved for migraine use, so you'll need to ask your doctor for more details.

If you'd like to do some more research on your own before going to the doctor's office, there are several good books on Botox and the Botox migraines connection available. Deborah Mitchell has written one of the more recent books on Botox (fall 2002) entitled The Botox Miracle For a doctor's perspective on Botox, get the facts on the Botox migraines connection in Botox by Dr. Ron Shelton and Terry Malloy .

Remember, you're in charge of your migraine headache treatment! Find the facts and keep looking for solutions.

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