Botox For Migraines: Your Top 8 Questions Answered

Botox For MigrainesWhile Botox is most commonly used to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, the injection is proving itself to be quite the MVP of the cosmetic world. Not only are more people than ever looking to the procedure to turn back the hands of time (including a record high number of men), but the popular treatment can be used for a myriad of unexpected health conditions, from excessive sweating to psoriasis to an overactive bladder.

For the 12% of Americans who suffer from chronic migraines, Botox might just be the answer. Simple injections around the head and neck have been shown to prevent and alleviate pain, so much so that the FDA has officially approved Botox for use in adults who live with these mind-numbing headaches.

RealSelf turned to Los Angeles plastic surgeon Dr. Gary Motykie to get answers to the top questions regarding Botox for migraines. If you’re considering the procedure but still have questions, you’ll definitely want to read what he had to say:

1. What's the science behind Botox for migraines? Why does it work?

Botox works by blocking the release of certain brain chemicals and preventing the movement of certain muscles. It’s not completely known how Botox reduces headache pain, but a potential reason might be that Botox blocks the nerves that send pain messages to the brain and relaxes muscles so that they’re less stiff and sensitive.

2. How did doctors discover that Botox could be used to treat migraines?

Physicians discovered the link between Botox treatments and headaches in 1992, when patients reported experiencing fewer headaches following injections that were intended to reduce facial lines and wrinkles. The finding was confirmed by several clinical trials that showed Botox injections did indeed provide significant relief to both tension and migraine headache sufferers.

3. How effective is it?

Most patients treated with Botox experience a major decrease in the frequency of headaches, with an average of 9 less headache days per month. While Botox is the first and only FDA-approved treatment shown to deliver these kinds of results, it’s important to note that signs of improvement can take as long as 10 to 14 days after injection. Some people may not experience any relief with their first set of injections, but follow-up treatments are oftentimes more successful.

4. Who should consider getting it done?

Chronic migraines are one of the most disabling forms of headaches. They’re often called “sick headaches” because they can also be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound — all of which can greatly affect work, family, and social life. The FDA has approved Botox in patients who suffer from headaches on 

15 or more days per month with headaches lasting for 4 hours a day or longer. Doctors may not recommend Botox injections until other treatments have proven unsuccessful. However, Botox might be a good option if you don’t tolerate other migraine medications well.

5. Where does it get injected?

When treating chronic migraines, an average of 30 small Botox injections are administered into seven specific areas. These sites include points on the forehead, temples, neck, bridge of the nose, back of the head, and upper shoulders and back.

6. How long does it take and does it hurt?

The Botox injections themselves are almost painless. Patients may experience a very small sting at each injection, but the process is quick and simple.

Each session lasts anywhere from 10 and 30 minutes. Patients may or may not experience slight bruising, swelling, or irritation at the injection sites.

7. How often do you have to do it?

Botox treatments for migraines are typically administered once every three months with treatments typically spanning a 15-month period.

8. What’s the average cost of each treatment?

The good news is that most insurance providers now cover the expense of Botox for the treatment of chronic migraines. If you do not have insurance or your insurance doesn’t pay for the procedure, a treatment can cost several thousand dollars. Before you begin the injections, talk with your insurance company about your potential coverage. In some cases, they may require you to undergo several other procedures or tests before they will authorize the treatments.

Have you tried Botox to get rid of migraines? Share your story in the comments!

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