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Using Botox for Migraine: Side Effects of the Treatment

Botox is a widely accepted treatment for most cosmetic problems like forehead wrinkles, frown lines, and Crow’s feet. It also offers benefits for therapeutic relief of certain medical conditions like cervical dystonia, overactive bladder, muscle spasticity, and excessive sweating. Today, a headache specialist can also recommend getting Botox as a preventive treatment for chronic migraine headache disorders. 

So what are the side effects of Botox treatment for migraine? The side effects of Botox for chronic migraine can include neck pain or stiffness, temporary headache, muscle weakness in the neck and shoulders, and swelling at the injection site. Most reactions are mild and will usually disappear within a few days.

Say Goodbye To Your Wrinkles and Fine Lines

With just a few simple injections, our providers can erase your wrinkles and fine lines in no time with Botox. Call us today to book your appointment.

When Was Botox First Used For Migraine Treatment? 

Botox is the commercial name for the botulinum toxin injection, which is a potent substance derived from the Clostridium botulinum bacteria. It is well-known as a neuromodulator that blocks the release of neurotransmitters to reduce muscle contraction activity.   

In 2000, it was discovered to alleviate migraine pain after some patients who were given Botox cosmetic for wrinkles also reported experiencing relief from headache symptoms. Then in 2010, chronic migraine sufferers received good news as the US FDA approved Botox as a treatment for migraine prevention. 

The approval was based on a study where patients were gathered for a randomized trial of botulinum toxin injections and placebo. People who received the Botox treatment showed significant improvement with fewer headache day frequency compared to those who received the placebo. 

Those who participated in the clinical trial reported mild side effects of neck pain and headache which lasted for a few days. Rare, adverse effects included muscle weakness in other parts of the body, drooping eyelid, and muscle spasm.

Since then, Botox has been recognized as an effective therapy for a chronic migraine patient who is experiencing migraine symptoms such as throbbing and pulsing at the sides of the head for at least 15 days or more.

The Side Effects of Botox Therapy for Chronic Migraine 

It is theorized that Botox for chronic migraine works by interrupting the pathway where pain signals travel from the head to the brain. The treatment not only reduces headache pain but also minimizes the episodes of migraine attack and can temporarily prevent future chronic headache from happening.

The recommended total dose of Botox for migraines is 155 units and these are injected into 7 muscle areas around the neck and head: forehead, nose bridge, temple, neck, back of the head, and the shoulder blades in the upper back. When performed by a licensed professional, the whole procedure can be safely done in about 15 minutes.

Most of the side effects of Botox are associated with the pain of the needle used to administer the injection. Among the common reactions after getting the injection can include:

  • Injection site reactions like swelling, bruising, redness, and tenderness - When receiving an injection to the skin, it’s normal to experience some inflammation as a response to the trauma from the needle. Ice packs and cold compress can minimize the discomfort and help the treated area recover faster.
  • Neck pain - Botox can cause soreness when injected in the neck or head area which results in mild pain or stiffness in the neck. It can last for a few days after the treatment.
  • Weakness in the neck and upper shoulders - Because of the mechanism of action of Botox, it can temporarily relax the muscles which can result in decreased movement or partial weakness in the neck and shoulders area.
  • Mild headache - Injection of Botox into the forehead muscles may also result in temporary headaches. These can be managed with some over-the-counter drugs and pain relief medication, but they usually go away on their own after several days. 

Unwanted adverse reaction from Botox can happen if the toxin has spread into areas beyond the treatment sites. These can include drooping eyelid or ptosis, muscle weakness in other body parts, difficulty speaking, trouble swallowing, shortness of breath, loss of bladder control, and vision problems such as dry eyes, blurred vision, and double vision.

Others may also report experiencing symptoms of an allergic reaction such as itching, rash, hives, wheezing, and swelling of the face, especially in the lips, mouth, and throat. Severe and prolonged headaches after Botox are rare and they may only be experienced by at least 1% of patients who get the treatment.

Patients who experience serious side effects should seek immediate medical attention from their physician. To lessen the risks and complications from Botox, it’s also important to know whether you’ll be a good candidate for Botox. People who have the following conditions are typically advised against the injections:

  • Known history of botulism or allergy to the neurotoxin
  • Presence of infection at the injection site
  • Pre-existing neuromuscular conditions that may worsen muscle weakness such as myasthenia gravis
  • Active urinary tract infection and bladder problems

How to Know If Botox Is The Right Treatment For You 

Young woman with headache in home interior

Migraines and headaches are two debilitating disorders that can disrupt normal activities and quality of life. To identify whether Botox is the correct treatment for your symptoms, it’s important to first distinguish the comparison between a migraine and headache:

1. Headaches

A headache is characterized by a sharp pain and throbbing or pulsing sensation in the different parts of the head. There are two classifications of headache: primary and secondary.  

First, a primary headache may be triggered by a dysfunction in the pain-sensitive regions in the head or changes in the chemical activity in the brain. It can also be caused by lifestyle factors such as lack of sleep, vitamin and nutrient deficiency from skipping meals, too much alcohol, or sometimes excess eating of processed foods.

Cluster and tension headaches are the common kinds of primary headaches. Cluster headaches occur in a localized part of the head and people with this condition often experience bursts of extreme pain in episodes for a certain period. 

Meanwhile, a tension headache can be a result of anxiety, stress, or fatigue (episodic headache) or can be caused by pressure or inflammation in the brain and can usually occur for 15 days a month (chronic headache).

Secondary headaches are usually a symptom of a pre-existing medical condition that can affect the nervous system. Common illnesses that can cause secondary headaches are brain tumors, strokes, head trauma, seizures, sinus infections, and hypertension.

2. Migraines

A migraine is a type of primary tension headache that brings intense pain or dull ache on one side of the head. Severe headache pain that lasts for more than 15 days a month for at least 3 months is diagnosed as chronic migraine, while pain that occurs for less than 15 days is an episodic migraine.

There are typically four migraine phases and each stage has different signs and symptoms:

  • Prodome or premonitory - Initial symptoms are mood changes, constipation, neck stiffness, and increased sensitivity to light or sound
  • Aura - In the aura phase, you may experience visual disturbances and other sensory issues like blurred vision and trouble speaking.  
  • Migraine attack - You’ll begin to experience bursts of mild to severe headache pain and you may be prone to nausea and vomiting.
  • Postdrome - After an attack, you may feel tired and exhausted and there may be lingering pain which can hinder your normal activities.

Migraines: Should You Get Botox or Not?

Botox is a great treatment option for migraine patients to whom traditional acute medications and pain-relief drugs have been unsuccessful. If you’re experiencing chronic migraine for more than 15 days each month, then you can consult with your doctor about getting the Botox injection. The therapy may not be as effective on patients who experience less than 15 headache days.

Talking with a headache specialist can help in finding the right management plan for your symptoms. Medications like anti-nausea medicines, pain relievers, nonsteroidal inflammatory drugs such as aspirin or ibuprofen, and migraine-specific drugs like triptan may also help provide relief.

How Often Should You Get Botox to Prevent Migraine? 

The frequency of your Botox treatments may depend on how often you experience migraine attacks. For first time patients, a doctor may start you on 2 treatments which are 12 weeks apart. In each session, a total of 31 units will be injected in 7 treatment areas in the head and the neck.

The results of the treatment are not immediate and it may take at least 4 weeks to start experiencing its effects. For preventive treatment of chronic migraine, your doctor may recommend getting Botox injections for 4 times a year. The treatment may be taken with a migraine medication to get better results for long-term pain-relief.

Get Botox and Other Wellness Treatments at aNu Aesthetics

When untreated, migraine headaches can be a source of long-term pain and discomfort, and can affect how you function at work or events. And while various medications are available for instant relief, Botox treatments present as a viable option for long-term ease and prevention of migraines.

Here at aNu Aesthetics, we offer safe and quality Botox services to help with migraine problems and other aesthetic concerns. We strive to provide excellent customer experience by ensuring that clients get the best cosmetic and wellness care possible. Call us now to inquire about our offerings or book a consultation.

Say Goodbye To Your Wrinkles and Fine Lines

With just a few simple injections, our providers can erase your wrinkles and fine lines in no time with Botox. Call us today to book your appointment.

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