38 million Americans experience migraines, according to Migraine.com. Of these 38 million, between two and three million are believed to have chronic migraines. This is where a headache occurs for 15 days or more every month. Therefore, it is no surprise that 91% of people who have migraines say that they miss work or are unable to function at work as a result of their condition.
But, those with chronic migraines may soon be able to breathe a sigh of relief, as new research has found that Botox injections in the forehead can significantly improve how frequently the headaches occur.
In October 2010, the FDA approved the use of botulinum toxin, or Botox, as a form of treatment for chronic migraines. This approval still stands today, and has yet to be extended to individuals who experience less frequent migraines. This is because there is no evidence to support the idea that Botox has a positive impact on people who have fewer than 15 headaches a month, according to the American Migraine Foundation.
“The more frequent the headaches, the better the patient does with Botox,” says Dr. Andrew Blumenfeld, the director of The Headache Center of Southern California.
How does medical Botox differ?
The Botox used to treat chronic migraines is no different to the Botox used in the 1.5 million cosmetic Botox treatments carried out every year. The only noticeable deviations in the procedures are that a higher number of shots are administered when it’s used for medical purposes, and shots will typically be injected in the neck and shoulders, as well as the head.
Other than that, patients will experience the same advantages that cosmetic Botox patients do. This includes the Botox injections relaxing the muscles, and blocking the signals between the nerves and the muscles. Furthermore, the aesthetic benefits of Botox, such as smoother skin, are experienced, too.
In a new study reported in the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery medical journal, researchers reviewed data from 17 studies that included a total of 3,646 patients. 43% of the patients in the studies had chronic migraines.
Following Botox treatment once a month for three to four months, researchers concluded that the individuals who had chronic migraines experienced 1.6 fewer migraines every month than those who had a placebo injected into their forehead.
Another significant finding from the research was that migraine patients who were treated with Botox reported an improvement in their quality of life. “It can be explained by the reduced impact of headaches and migraine-related disability, thus reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety,” states Prof. Chaput and his fellow co-authors.
The side effects
Although the results from this new study are promising, it is important to note that side effects were experienced by the chronic migraine patients who had Botox injections. Muscle weakness, drooping eyelids, muscle tightness, neck pain, and double vision were all reported.
It’s also worth noting that the long-term side effects of using Botox to treat chronic migraines are largely undocumented. As a result, it’s not currently known how long it is safe to use Botox to treat chronic migraines for.
Previous evidence of support
The Migraine Trust reports that earlier PREEMPT trials show greater advantages for individuals who experience chronic migraines than this latest research.
In a study of 1384 patients, where the average patient faced 20 headaches per month, Botox injections reduced the number of headaches per month by eight days, after two cycles of treatment. This increased to 70% of participants having 50% fewer headaches a month, after 12 months of treatment.
In addition, no significant or irreversible side effects were reported in the study. Therefore, the short-term side-effects that come with Botox injections may be worth it if it means individuals don’t have to miss family and social events, take time off work, or spend days in bed recovering.
Chronic migraines affect the lives of millions of Americans. These individuals are sure to be pleased that new research has confirmed that Botox injections provide relief and fewer headache days when used to treat the condition. However, as with all medical procedures, you should ensure you do your research first, and understand the potential risks associated with Botox.