Most people don’t realize how serious and incapacitating migraine headaches are. They can cripple one’s ability to function. More than 4 million adults experience chronic migraines – with at least 15 migraine days per month. Living with migraines is an exercise of coping with the unpredictable. Frequency, symptoms and severity can change from one attack to the next. These headaches can be a complex and often debilitating disorder to treat. 1
Most common types of Migraine:
1. Migraine without Aura (formerly called Common Migraine).
This is the most frequent type of Migraine. Symptoms include moderate to severe pulsating headache pain that occurs without warning and is usually felt on one side of the head. Nausea, confusion, blurred vision, mood changes, fatigue, and increased sensitivity to light, sound, or smells are common symptoms. Attacks typically last 4-72 hours, and they repeat a few times a year to a few times a week. This type of Migraine can worsen with frequent use of symptomatic medication.
2. Migraine with Aura (formerly called Classic or Complicated Migraine).
This type of Migraine headache includes visual disturbances and other neurological symptoms that appear about 10 to 60 minutes before the actual headache and usually last no more than an hour. You may temporarily lose part or all of your vision. The aura may occur without headache pain, which can strike at any time. Less frequent aura symptoms include an abnormal sensation, numbness, or muscle weakness on one side of the body; a tingling sensation in the hands or face; trouble speaking; and confusion. Nausea, loss of appetite, and increased sensitivity to light, sound, or noise may precede the headache. 2
Migraines cannot be cured, but doctors can help you manage them so you get them less often and can help make them less severe.
Medication overuse is a common reason why episodic migraine turns chronic.
Medication-overuse headache (MOH) may occur in people who have frequent migraine, cluster, or tension-type headaches, which leads them to overuse pain medications. A vicious cycle will occur, whereby frequent headaches cause the person to take medication regularly (often non-prescription medication), which then causes a rebound headache as the medication wears off, causing more medication use, and so on. 3
If you are wondering if it is time to seek medical treatment for your headaches consider the following questions:
Are your headaches interfering in your life regarding work, school, family or social activities?
Have your headaches become more frequent or more severe?
Are over-the-counter medications no longer effective or do you worry that you might be taking too much? Have you gone to the emergency department for a headache?
Migraine sufferers can achieve better management and control by proper diagnosis and treatment.
There are three main approaches to migraine treatment: acute, preventive, and complementary.
Acute treatments, attempt to reverse or stop migraine symptoms. It is a therapy used to stop an attack when it begins.
Preventive treatments aim to reduce the frequency and severity of migraine headaches, and prevent the onset of future attacks. Botox is a preventative treatment.
Complementary treatments mostly refer to prevention by modifying one’s activities or exposure to migraine triggers such as certain scents, foods, alcohol, etc. 4
Options in the past were limited to mostly oral medications. There are several milestones over the course of time with the field of pain management. Botox treatment for migraines is certainly one of them.
Botox is FDA approved for the prevention of migraine headaches. It is recommended for patients who experience more than 15 headache days a month.
Botox is a form of botulinum toxin, a neurotoxin produced by the bacteria that causes botulism. It was first used in neurological conditions to treat spasms of the face and eye muscles, rather than for cosmetic purposes, like wrinkles.
When Botox is used in specific areas, it temporarily reduces muscle contractions for approximately 3 months.
Botox prevents migraine headaches before they start, but it takes time to work. Patients see increasing benefit with an increase in the number of treatment cycles. People who receive Botox for headaches usually get the treatment about every three months, and patients reported that two Botox treatments reduced the number of headache days by approximately 50%. 5
What happens during the Treatment?
Your first Botox treatment will take about 10 minutes. A very small needle (feels like a pinprick) will inject small amounts of Botox into shallow muscles in the skin. The most common side effect from the Botox shots is a sore neck. It can take up to six months to see the maximum benefit from Botox. In the meantime, you can continue your regular medications with no risk of a drug interaction.
It is remarkable how a migraine sufferer's life can be "given back to them" with just a few minor injections every 3 months.
Quality of life and function are restored at a relative cost savings to the patient who can better avoid medications, ER visits, and less missed time at work. Most insurances cover Botox for migraines as a treatment.